Jennifer's 2024 Reading (japaul22)

DiscussãoClub Read 2024

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Jennifer's 2024 Reading (japaul22)

Editado: Dez 26, 2023, 9:08 am

Hi everyone! I'm back for my 14th year in Club Read. I live in Northern Virginia and am a musician in the U.S. Marine Band - I play french horn. I'm also a mom to two boys, ages 14 and 11 this winter. So, I'm busy! But I also find plenty of time to read. I love contemporary fiction and gravitate to women writers. I also read and reread the classics. I also always have a nonfiction book going, usually history or biography.

This year, I want to have some sort of focus/theme to my reading. I think I've decided on two broad topics. In looking at my 2023 reading stats, I noticed I'm really reading A LOT of novels published in English. I also read A LOT of women authors (about 70% of my reading). So, I think I'll try a "women in translation" theme. I think this is a growing area in publishing, so I'm hoping to find some gems and broaden my reading horizons a bit, while still enjoying the books I choose. My second theme will be Norwegian authors. This is because we are planning a trip to Norway this summer with extended family to see extended family. I've already read quite a few Norwegian authors, but I'd like to round this out a bit with some of the classics I've missed and some modern authors.

Looking forward to the reading year ahead!

Editado: Abr 9, 3:46 pm

These lists are to help me pick books when I don't have a "next book" in mind. They will also give you an idea of the kinds of books I enjoy. These are all a work in progress. I will remove or add on any whim - they are not "definitive" lists for me!

Contemporary Authors that I follow (i.e. I'll probably read any new novel they put out and am reading any backlog I haven't gotten to yet):
Hilary Mantel
Kate Atkinson
Eleanor Catton
Eowyn Ivey
Tana French
Marilynne Robinson
Hannah Tinti
Barbara Kingsolver
Ann Patchett
Chimamanda Adichie
Margaret Atwood
Madeline Miller
Esther Freud
A.S. Byatt
Siri Hustvedt
Ottessa Moshfegh
Charlotte McConaghy
Niall Williams
Maggie O'Farrell

Series/Mysteries/thrillers that I follow:
Tana French, (8/8)
C.J. Sansom, Matthew Shardlake series (6/6)
Ruth Ware (6/7)
Thursday Murder Club (4/4)
Maisie Dobbs (8/17)
Lisa Lutz

Classic authors I love (reading novels I haven't read yet or rereads):

Jane Austen
the Brontes
Virginia Woolf
George Eliot
Thomas Mann
Haldor Laxness
Sigrid Undset
Scandinavian classics
Willa Cather
Edith Wharton
John Williams
Thomas Hardy
Henry James
Barbara Pym

Kindle TBR (because I never remember I have these) 36 34 books on this list at the beginning of 2023 2024:
Daughters of the Winter Queen by Nancy Goldstone
Martin Chuzzlewit
Our Mutual Friend
Nicholas Nickleby
Lost Children Archive
The Fire This Time
Sandhamn Murders by Viveca Sten books 1-6 (WIT)
Titan by Ron Chernow
The Imprisoned Guest by Elisabeth Gitter
How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
Three Lives by Gertrude Stein
Compartment No. 6 (WIT)
The Great Circle
The Books of Jacob (WIT)
3 From Amazon world book day:
Mother Dear (WIT)
The Easy Life in Kamusari (WIT)
And Eye for an Eye
She Has Her Mother's Laugh (science book on heredity)
A Woman's Life by Maupassant
Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
Lapovna by Otessa Moshfegh
Best of Friends by Kamila Shamsie
Was Heathcliff a Murderer by Jon Sutherland
Baba Dunja’s Last Love (WIT)
Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie
Ladie’s Paradise Zola
The Feast by Margaret Kennedy
We, The Drowned by Carsten Jensen

Editado: Abr 12, 9:30 pm

Link to my "best book by publication year" list

Category ideas for 2024: Do I need/want these?

Best Book by publication year (1976, 1944, 1942, 1914, 1906, 1904, 1902, 1893, 1888, 1887, 1879, 1870, 1852, 1850)
Rereads (9
Backlist from favorite authors (
Classics/1001 books (8, 9
Off my shelf/kindle (4, 6, 8
Library/amazon wish list (5
*Women in Translation (2, 5, 11
*Norwegian authors/topics (11
Black American authors
Indigenous authors
Environment fiction and nonfiction (1
Persephone/NYRB/virago (2, 3, 10
Mystery (6
miscellaneous (7

Projects/Big Books for 2024:
Georgia O'Keefe letters book
A Fine Balance
Rereads month?
Virginia Woolf bio

“Oh right, I wanted to read that soon” books:
An African in Greenland
Next maisie dobbs

Dez 26, 2023, 9:11 am

Open for business, though I'll focus on my 2023 thread for the next week and expect to review a few more books there.

Dez 26, 2023, 10:59 am

>2 japaul22: I may copy you and create an unfinished Kindle list. I wonder how many I have?

I'll be looking forward to seeing who makes up your women in translation reading this year, and hearing about your Norway trip.

Dez 26, 2023, 12:29 pm

Welcome back for another year of Club Read, Jennifer! Like Ardene/markon, you've inspired me to make an unread Kindle list, as I tend to forget those too.

I too try to read Women in Translation, and when I need ideas, I sometimes frequent the Reading Globally theme read thread, Women authors who didn't write in English. It has links to some great lists.

Dez 26, 2023, 1:07 pm

>6 markon: It is so easy to lose track of kindle purchases! I started that list a few years ago and it has really helped me both to buy fewer kindle books unless I'm going to read them immediately and to cross a few off of the backlist. I found I just really never read kindle books that I buy to read "some day". Something about not seeing the cover sitting on a shelf.

>7 labfs39: Thanks for that link to women who didn't write in English. Great place to start!

Dez 26, 2023, 1:34 pm

I've noted it too, since I have a goal of reading at least 5 translated books in 2024.

Dez 28, 2023, 6:55 am

I'll be following along with your reading again this year and look forward to seeing your women in translation reads. I created a collection here on LT to help track my ebooks since I'm here so often. I love all your stats.

Dez 28, 2023, 7:03 am

Hi Jennifer, thanks for linking from your 2023 thread. I look forward to following your 2024 reading here. I like the idea of reading more women in translation. I just read Jhumpa Lahiri's latest, Roman Stories, which she originally wrote in Italian and then translated. She's an excellent short story writer and this collection was really good.

Also, are you familiar with Archipelago Books? Their raison d'être is publishing world literature in translation. And the books are very pretty, too. 😀 I admit I'm usually not familiar with the authors they publish, but have generally enjoyed them. Their website includes an authors page with photos, which might be the best way to find the women authors:

Dez 28, 2023, 7:37 am

>11 lauralkeet: I'm another fan of Archipelago Press. Although paperback, they are high quality with lovely tactile paper, French flaps, and a unique size and square shape. I look for them wherever I go. I also like NYRB, Europa Editions, and even smaller presses like Open Letter and Gray Wolf.

Dez 28, 2023, 8:06 am

>11 lauralkeet:, >12 labfs39: Yes! I have really enjoyed the books I've bought from Archipelago and I have a few on my shelves that I'll read this year. I also have several nyrb books that I haven't gotten to yet that will fit my challenge. And some on my unread kindle list that I marked with "WIT" and will try to get to this year. (except for the VERY long Books of Jacob - I'm not sure I'll ever read that and certainly not on my kindle since it sounds like a book that needs to be read in print).

>11 lauralkeet: I don't usually read short stories but I have enjoyed Jhumpa Lahiri's in the past, so maybe I will read her new collection this year.

Dez 28, 2023, 5:36 pm

Dropping a star for your 2024 reading! Looking forward to seeing what you read of women in translation in particular :)

Dez 28, 2023, 5:55 pm

>14 rabbitprincess: Good to see you here! I always hope my category challenge friends will still follow my reading in Club Read. I still star many people (including you!) in the Category Challenge. It just feels nice to not have to maintain two threads.

Dez 30, 2023, 10:06 am

I'll be following your reading again in the new year, Jennifer.


Dez 30, 2023, 4:02 pm

Oy, I have SO many ebooks languishing in the ether... although in my defense, a lot of them are galleys, so I don't feel quite as committed to them. But all those pandemic purchases! I'd like to get to at least a few of them this year.

I've read about 1/3 of Roman Stories and really liked it. She has such a good ear for the subtleties of feeling off-kilter or out of place.

Dez 31, 2023, 12:21 pm

Your themes for 2024 are really interesting! I'll be glad to follow your readings again next year.

Dez 31, 2023, 9:48 pm

Hi, Jennifer, just dropping a star:).

Dez 31, 2023, 10:31 pm

>12 labfs39: Tilted Axis Press publishes books in translation, often from countries we don't see represented.

Looking forward to following your reading again this year!

Dez 31, 2023, 10:46 pm

>20 RidgewayGirl: Thanks for that, Kay. I love their covers. You know, we should start a list of small publishers of books in translation over on the lists thread. It would be a good one to bookmark for reference.

Dez 31, 2023, 10:50 pm

>21 labfs39: Oh, good idea!

Jan 1, 7:18 pm

Wish you a happy new year, Jennifer. I always enjoy following your thread.

Jan 2, 2:32 am

Happy new year Jennifer. I'm looking forward to following your Women in Translation theme.

Jan 2, 6:39 am

Welcome, everyone, and thanks for checking in! I embarrassingly lost track of my own thread the last few days with all the posts on LT. I didn't mean to ignore everyone!

I saw the list of publishers who publish books in translation on the other thread. Very helpful!

My first review of the year will be coming soon!

Jan 2, 9:33 am

Like others, I'll be following your reading in translation.

>3 japaul22: >7 labfs39: >11 lauralkeet: And Other Stories is a publisher offering many contemporary female authors in translation. I have had a subscription for the last 8 or 9 years, but decided not to renew it this year, as they were moving more toward young English authors. Many of these are of immigrant backgrounds, giving their work an interesting twist on life in England, but I still decided to cancel and will follow their catalogue instead, ordering ad hoc.
It was through this publisher that I also discovered Paulo Scott (Brazil), S J Naudé, Ivan Vladislavic (South Africa), and others.

>25 japaul22: Looking forward to it!

Jan 2, 11:53 am

#1 The Language of Butterflies by Wendy Williams

I had a lot of fun reading this book. I've been interested in reading this sort of nature/ecology book the past few years. This one was on the light side in terms of science, which made it easy and pleasurable to read, but I don't think I learned as much.

The author divides the book into three sections: past, present, and future. I loved the section about the past, learning about the beginnings of buttlerfly classification. I hadn't heard of Maria Sibylla Merian, a 17th century woman scientist who basically created the idea of scientific method and careful observation. She observed and notated through writing and art work every aspect of observable life for caterpillars and butterflies. I would like to read more about her.

The second and third section get a heavy focus on monarchs, one of the most studied butterflies. This info was all interesting, but I had learned most of it other places. Still, it was a nice synthesis.

Overall, this was a nice glimpse into what we currently know about butterflies - their life cycles, migration, and what we think they need to survive in the future.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 237 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: Christmas gift
Why I read this: off the shelf, interested in the topic

Jan 2, 1:27 pm

Sounds fun. I’m not familiar with Maria Sibylla Merian.

Editado: Jan 2, 1:41 pm

Here's a New York Times article about her that I'm gifting to whoever wants to read it. I would love to read a biography of her, but there doesn't seem to be one.

Editado: Jan 3, 2:57 pm

>29 japaul22: There's a biography Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis. I haven't read it yet, and you can thank qebo (Katherine) for recommending it

Jan 2, 4:23 pm

Happy New Year, Jennifer. I look forward to following your reading again this year -- and I've already gotten some ideas for reading in translation! I hope 2024 is a good year for you.

Jan 2, 4:50 pm

>30 markon: excellent! Thank you! I will definitely read that.

Jan 2, 6:06 pm

Looking forward to the ride! Will you try Knausgaard for your Norwegian reading theme? Do I have in the back of my head that you weren't keen on the idea of him?

Jan 2, 6:17 pm

>33 AlisonY: Yes, that's right, I've never been tempted to read Knausgaard, even with all the rave reviews around here. We'll see . . .
I think I have plenty of other Norwegian authors to get to.

Jan 3, 7:37 am

>26 SassyLassy: I'm glad to know more about And Other Stories. I learned about Ivan Vladislavic through Archipelago. I've read two books by him, both very interesting. I'm still thinking about The Exploded View months after reading it.

>30 markon: qebo is Katherine :)

>34 japaul22: One Norwegian female author whom I want to read more of is Hanne Ørstavik. I liked her Love, it's another one that stuck in my leaky brain. And there's always the inestimable Sigrid Undset.

Jan 3, 1:52 pm

>35 labfs39: I read Hanne Ørstavik's novella Love last year and really enjoyed it. I still have her book The Pastor on my shelf to look forward to.

I've also read Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter which is a favorite of mine and I read twice. I also read Gunnar's Daughter which is also very good. I'd like to read her novel, Jenny, this year.

Jan 3, 2:00 pm

I've started a BIG book that doesn't fit either of my themes but that I've been meaning to read since I received it Christmas of 2022. The book is My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O'Keefe and Alfred Stieglitz. I've enjoyed O'Keefe's art. I knew basically nothing about Stieglitz or their relationship until I received this book. The two were decades apart in age when they met and they quickly developed a romantic and, I guess you would say spiritual, connection through writing letters to each other. This book is just a fraction of their prodigious output of letters from 1915-1933. It encompasses the first years of their relationship, their happy years together, a stretch when their relationship begins to fall apart, and how they stitched it back together. They exchanged over 5000 letters (25,000 pages!) over their lives. This first volume contains 650 letters.

I've read the first 70 pages of this giant sized 800 page book and I think I'll stick with it. O'Keefe writes artistically - almost in an abstract way and even the script and page breaks and symbols she uses are interesting and I'd say indicative of her personality (pictures of some of the letters are included). Steiglitz is a more traditional writer and writes lyrically and very descriptively. I think it's going to be an interesting and memorable book. The book is divided into 3 large sections, so I'll likely do a review after each section.

Jan 3, 2:03 pm

>37 japaul22: sounds lovely. I’m interested.

Jan 3, 2:57 pm

>35 labfs39: >30 markon: Fixed it - thanks Lisa!

Jan 3, 2:58 pm

>37 japaul22: - I read a great novel based on O'Keeffe's life, including her relationship with Stieglitz - Georgia by Dawn Tripp. Just FYI, if you are ever interested in...

Jan 3, 3:00 pm

>40 katiekrug: Ooh, that sounds like a great pairing! Thanks!

Jan 3, 3:03 pm

My other big news is that I purchased 29 beautiful Persephone editions from a fellow LT member who is trying to downsize her shelves. I only owned 8 and have read and loved all of those. But Persephone, based in England, has really increased their shipping prices and the books are prohibitively expensive. I had resigned myself to waiting to some unknown date in the next decade or two when I might make it to their shop in Bath in person. So I am thrilled that this worked out. You'll notice me reading a lot of them over the next year!

Jan 3, 3:05 pm

>40 katiekrug: haha, I went to buy it and amazon alerted me that I already own the kindle edition. Lost track of that one, somehow!

Jan 3, 3:20 pm

>42 japaul22: - Oh, what a treat! I went to their shop in London and wanted them ALL.

>43 japaul22: - For all its ills, I do appreciate Amazon letting me know when I've already bought something :)

Jan 3, 3:53 pm

Looking forward to seeing all your reads again! The O'Keefe sounds fascinating. Will you read straight through it or have other reads happening at the same time?

Jan 3, 4:22 pm

>37 japaul22: I have seen some of the images of Alfred Stieglitz the phographer and the work of Georgia O'Keefe, but I didn't know of their relationship - fascinating

Jan 3, 4:52 pm

>42 japaul22: What a lovely thing. I'm delighted for you. How do they look on your shelf?

Jan 3, 6:12 pm

>45 mabith: I will definitely read the O'Keefe/Stieglitz book in short bursts among other books. I typically read at least two books at once anyway. But I also don't want to read it TOO slowly. I've found that I can't get into a rhythm with a big book if I read it too slowly. I'm hoping I can read it in 3-4 months this way.

>46 baswood: It's such an interesting way to learn about two people - through their letters.

>47 RidgewayGirl: I never do pictures on LT because the process annoys me, but maybe I'll make an exception this once. :-)

Jan 3, 6:41 pm

Here is the requested picture of my new Persephones. Previously, I only had the shelf of persephones that is 3 from the top (8 books). I've greatly expanded! This shelf is kind of behind my Christmas tree right now so it's hard to access, so I will organize them a little better soon.

Jan 3, 7:01 pm

>49 japaul22: And suitably shelved next to the Viragos.

Jan 3, 7:13 pm

>49 japaul22: wow. looks good!

Editado: Jan 3, 7:31 pm

Great review of The Language of Butterflies, Jennifer. Thanks for sharing that very interesting article about Maria Sibylla Merian; her paintings are gorgeous!

>49 japaul22: Nice!

Editado: Jan 3, 8:09 pm

>36 japaul22: I read Undset's Jenny a few years ago. It's an important book, but difficult to read.

>49 japaul22: Lovely! and >50 RidgewayGirl: my thoughts exactly!

Jan 4, 8:27 am

Happy New Year, love your shelves! So many Perspehones! A Fine Balance is a good choice, it is a wonderful sad book!

Jan 4, 9:04 am

I am so happy that they are appreciated. And, Maman. What Are We Called Now? is translated from French! One of my favorites.

Jan 4, 9:16 am

>54 Simone2: I'm really hoping to get to A Fine Balance this year, but I know I have to be in the right mood. I'll find a time, I'm sure.

>55 Liz1564: Good to see you here! Don't they look great? Good to know about Maman, What are we Called Now, I'll try to read that one soon.

Jan 4, 9:23 am

Wow, you've been busy already, and hosting a busy meeting place here as well. Belated Happy New Year and happy reading for 2024. Cheers!

Jan 4, 9:29 am

>42 japaul22: What luck with the Persephones. I love them too, with their lovely end papers, but unfortunately only have a few due to those shipping costs.
I did give someone in the UK a subscription for a couple of years, as it's manageable there. Here I'm left hoping they will turn up in second hand stores!

>37 japaul22: That sounds really interesting. You can get lost in lives like that.

Jan 4, 11:15 pm

How cool with that bundle of Persephones! I'm always hoping to run across them at library sales.

>27 japaul22: I always avoided The Language of Butterflies because the title, without the subtitle sounded like the kind of book I don't love—butterflies, bees, yada yada. But that actually sounds really interesting. I'm a big fan of Maria Sibylla Merian—I know of her from my work years ago on the Darwin Manuscripts Project, when I was conversant with all those naturalists. I'll definitely put that one on the wish list.

>37 japaul22: As a letter writer, I love correspondence collections, especially when they're between two people (as opposed to one person's general output, though those are fun too). I have some nice ones that I've dipped in and out of that I should really try reading all the way through—thinking of my copy of Speak Low (When You Speak Love): The Letters of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, which I bought on a whim at the beginning of the pandemic but haven't read yet.

Jan 5, 3:24 pm

Popping in from the category challenge to say hello and see what you're reading, particularly Women in Translation and Classics. The Books of Jacob might be sitting in quite a few tbr piles. I WILL read it this year!

Jan 5, 3:45 pm

>60 pamelad: I’m with you on that. I really want to read The Books of Jacob and it’s been on my list far too long. I’ve really enjoyed other works by Olga Tokarczuk.

Jan 5, 4:49 pm

>57 rocketjk: Welcome, thanks for stopping by!

>58 SassyLassy: They are beautiful books, and I've enjoyed all 8 of the ones I've read.

>59 lisapeet: If you do have a good grasp on Maria Sybilla Merian, I'm afraid this book will be too basic for you. Just know it's definitely a survey and light on the detail.

>60 pamelad: Good to see you here! I've visited your thread as well. When I bought Books of Jacob I had no idea how long it was! Now I'm definitely intimidated. I will probably wait to see if I see some positive LT reviews before taking the plunge on that one. And I think it might work better in print than on my e reader.

>61 kjuliff: Maybe you will be the one to convince me to read Books of Jacob!

Jan 5, 7:33 pm

>62 japaul22: Maybe, after I read it. But I am a very picky reader.and then when I really like a book, I go all out encouraging others to read it. I’m currently reading The Best Minds: A Story of Friendship, Madness, and the Tragedy of Good Intentions. It’s brilliant. I can encourage you to read that.

Jan 6, 6:41 am

>63 kjuliff: That does look interesting!

Editado: Jan 6, 7:54 am

#2 The Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers

Between the history of how and when this book was written and the execution of the novel, this ended up being a fascinating and enjoyable read. Anna Seghers was a German Jewish woman with communist beliefs born in 1900. She fled Germany in in the 1930s to France and, when France no longer felt safe, left for Mexico. It was in Mexico in 1942 that this book was published.

In the mid-1930s, seven prisoners escape from one of Hitler's concentration camps. They split up immediately and most are quickly captured, but the action follows George Heisler. He somehow manages to avoid the Gestapo, even though he has no real plan and makes several mistakes. George is not particularly a hero. He is just a man who wants to be free. During the week following his escape, while he is trying to get to a safe space, we see an enormous cross section of German life. There are people unaffected by and uninterested in the political change. There are people benefitting from the new system and turning a blind eye. There are people who are scared of Hitler's policies but go with the flow because they don't know what else to do. There are people working against the new system but in extreme hiding with their beliefs. And because this is all believed in extreme secrecy, George doesn't know who to trust and those he turns to don't know who to trust either.

I thought it was brilliant that the novel isn't about what you think it would be about. From the description, I was expecting more about the escape from the concentration camp. I was expecting to hear a lot about the beliefs of the men who escaped and why they were in the camp in the first place. By not addressing this, Seghers makes clear that there wasn't much rhyme or reason to who ended up targeted by the Gestapo. George was politically against Hitler, but he was young and it's doubtful to me that he was doing anything particularly effective. And once George escapes, it wasn't a high-octane thriller.

I really enjoyed this. Anna Seghers is a great writer. This book was published at a time when it made a great impact on readers around the world and began to clue people in to what had happened in Germany. This book was a great mix of a novel that was enjoyable to read and one that opens up some insight into a troubling era.

Original publication date: 1942
Author’s nationality: German
Original language: German
Length: 402 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: nyrb purchase
Why I read this: off the shelf, women in translation, completes 1942 in my "best book of each year" spreadsheet

Jan 6, 7:23 am

I love that photo of your Persephones. We recently put some new bookshelves up. My husband couldn’t understand how it took me so long to fill them with books since in his mind all I had to do was pick up a load of books and put them on the shelves in no particular order…!

Another fan of your idea of having a list of unread books on your Kindle here. I have a Kobo as well as a Kindle (a desperate purchase at the start of lockdown when local library ebooks turned out not to be Kindle-compatible) so double the scope for losing track.

Jan 6, 8:07 am

>65 japaul22: Thats very interesting. I think it is useful to read about the time of Hitler's Germany before the war, to try and understand how people dealt with the changes. After Midnight by Irmgard Keun which I read recently covers the same period.

Jan 6, 8:13 am

>67 baswood: After Midnight is on my list - I'll try to get to it this year.

Jan 6, 8:48 am

>65 japaul22: I recently purchased the Seventh Cross, and after reading your review, I really want to read it!

Jan 6, 9:25 am

>69 labfs39: I think you'll like it. I also read her novel Transit and loved that as well.

Jan 6, 9:41 am

>65 japaul22: - This sounds excellent. Onto the list!

Jan 6, 10:34 am

>70 japaul22: I have that one as well! I really must read them.

Jan 6, 10:36 am

>62 japaul22: I'm not sure I know that much about Maria Sybilla, other than her basic details and place in naturalist history, so The Language of Butterflies might be a good one for me—though I think not a must-read.

Jan 6, 11:02 am

>65 japaul22: new to me. A terrific intriguing review. I now want to read this.

Jan 6, 12:21 pm

I loved The Seventh Cross too. I have Transit on my Kindle to read, soon I hope.

Jan 6, 12:55 pm

Jennifer, I'm adding The seventh cross to me TBR as well.

Jan 6, 1:32 pm

>65 japaul22: Liked your comments on The Seventh Cross. I read it in 2021 after earlier reading Transit, and thought it really showed how living or dying can be so random in times like those.

>69 labfs39: Maybe that could be your snowstorm book.

Jan 6, 3:27 pm

>77 SassyLassy: It may very well be. Hmm. At the moment, Peter Duck has just begun telling the story of his being shipwrecked as a boy, and I want to hear the rest of what he has to say.

Jan 6, 6:37 pm

You all convinced me. I found my copy of The Seventh Cross, and I'm now 65 pages in. Certainly engrossing. My heart is in my mouth half the time.

Jan 6, 7:09 pm

Yep, another convert to the Seventh Cross, the sample has me hooked.

Jan 7, 7:43 am

Wow, having a hard time keeping up with all the replies. I LOVE it!

I'm glad to have sparked so much interest in The Seventh Cross. I certainly heard of Anna Seghers from someone in Club Read at some point, so thanks to whoever put her on my radar!

Jan 7, 9:58 pm

The Seventh Cross sounds really interesting! I'm definitely going to look for that. Great review!

Jan 8, 7:58 am

>82 mabith: Thanks! I hope you enjoy it if you get to it.

Jan 8, 8:07 am

#3 Every Eye by Isobel English

Persephone No. 18 is a novella that seems to be going nowhere until the last line knocks you over the head and changes the tone of the whole book.

The narrator, Hattie, had expected to live life alone, partially because of her family's comments and expectations, until she meets her husband Stephen. They are on their way to Ibiza for a vacation and she ponders her teen years. Her uncle, sort of a stand in for her father who died when she was young, had married a woman named Cynthia from Ibiza. Her relationship with Cynthia, which starts out close and deteriorates, also intersects with a relationship Hattie has with a much older man, Jasper. As we see the present day relationship between Hattie and Stephen and explore Ibiza with them, the past starts to reveal the present.

At the beginning of this short book, I was a bit bored. I didn't think it was really going anywhere and the dual timeline was sometimes confusing. But as I approached the end of the novella, I started suspecting something was happening. And as I said at the beginning of my review, the closing sentences cast a new light on all of Hattie's memories, for both the reader and for Hattie herself. This is one I'd like to reread, knowing the ending the second time around.

Original publication date: 1956
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 119 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: Persephone book from Elaine on LT
Why I read this: off the shelf, short, wanted to read one of my new Persephones!

Jan 8, 9:12 am

>84 japaul22: new to me, as I suspect most of your new Persephone books are. I’m intrigued. I guess some books you are supposed to read twice.

Jan 8, 12:55 pm

Persephone books seem really interesting, how nice you were able to obtain these! Your review of Every eye was really interesting.

Jan 10, 5:59 pm

Great reviews! You've got me interested in reading The Seventh Cross, and your comments about the ending of Every Eye make me very curious about it.

Jan 11, 8:57 am

Excellent review of The Seventh Cross, Jennifer; that's definitely one for the wish list.

Jan 12, 2:20 pm

Glad to have sparked some curiosity in Every Eye. Persephone publishes such interesting titles. I wish they were more accessible in the US.

Jan 12, 2:32 pm

#4 Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Killers of the Flower Moon tells the interesting and horrifying story of the killing of dozens of the Osage tribe in the early 1900s. After several forced moves, the Osage end up on land in Oklahoma on which oil is discovered. They become millionaires overnight. But, their status as American Indians also means they have few rights and protections. They are assigned guardians and they fight a constant battle to keep their money and land. And then they start getting murdered. Dozens and dozens of Osage died under suspicious circumstances through the early 1900s.

Local law enforcement is unable and unwilling to solve the crimes. Hoover is just starting the FBI and his agents are assigned to look into the matter. A good portion of the book talks about these early days in the FBI and how they were set up, what their powers were, etc.

Despite the dramatic nature of these events, I found the book a little boring. I liked the beginning, when I was meeting the Osage and hearing about their lives. But when it started to get into the FBI I was less interested. And there's also a final section where the author uncovers some additional answers to the crimes. That was sort of interesting, but I didn't find it revelatory. The conclusions he comes to seemed obvious to me.

Anyway, I thought this was ok and I would read more from this author if I'm interested in the topic, but I didn't think it was amazing.

Original publication date: 2017
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 416 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library book sale (luckily before the movie tie in cover with a huge image of Leo DiCaprio)
Why I read this: off the shelf

Jan 12, 3:15 pm

>90 japaul22: - We read this for my book club a couple of years ago and I'll admit I only made it about half-way through. I thought it was interesting, but it was pretty slow reading. I've heard the movie is good.

I hate book covers with movie tie-ins.

Jan 12, 7:25 pm

>90 japaul22: I have thought about reading Flower Moon. Didn’t realize it was slow. Maybe i’d be ok with that. i might find the fbi aspect interesting.

Jan 12, 8:27 pm

>92 dchaikin: I read it for my book club last year, and didn't find it slow at all, but then I enjoyed the FBI aspect quite a bit. My least favorite part of the book was the end when the author steps in and tries to solve a mini-mystery. I think the book would have been better served if he had remained the journalist historian he is.

Jan 12, 11:58 pm

>90 japaul22: I found it very boring also.

Jan 13, 6:51 am

>91 dudes22: I think you read the most interesting part if you read the first half!

>92 dchaikin: You might like it Dan - I bet it would work well on audio. It's certainly an interesting story and an important example of horrifying American behavior.

>93 labfs39: Agreed about the end. Luckily that's a short part of the book.

>94 dianeham: This is interesting to me - that so many of us found it boring - because it got such great reviews. I'm really wondering if I'll spend my reading time on his new book, which I do have on hold at the library.

Jan 13, 8:43 am

fwiw, my wife read Killers of the Flower Moon for her book group a while back and thought it was great.

Jan 13, 11:09 am

I think I liked Killers of the Flower Moon better than you Jennifer, though I agree with Lisa about the ending. I think in general David Grann is a very good narrative nonfiction writer and I've read two other books by him that I liked if you're interested in reading further:
The Lost City of Z--about Amazonian exploration (and here the authorial intrusion didn't bother me as Gran tried to recreate what it was like to go into the depths of the Amazon;
The Wager-about an 18th century shipwreck, mutiny, and return to civilization.

Jan 13, 11:26 am

FWIW, what I hear from people who have reread the book and seen the movie is that the book spends a lot of time discussing the FBIs actions in this case and why the case was important in its formation. The movie spent all its time focused on the killings and eventual trial. (I have chosen not to read the book as when I tried it it seemed very dry.)

Jan 13, 11:33 am

>98 markon: It also talks about the FBI agents involved, their backgrounds, and methods. I found lead agent Tom White to be particularly interesting.

I didn't know until after reading the book that there has been conflict in Oklahoma about whether the book can be taught in high schools due to the restrictions of discussions of race and gender in schools there.

Jan 15, 11:27 am

#5 After Midnight by Irmgard Keun

I followed up on The Seventh Cross by reading this slim novel. Again, this is set in 1930s Germany, as Hitler is in power and life is changing for everyone. Told through the eyes of a young woman, Sanna begins the novel interested in hanging out with her friends and flirting with men and giving sharp, pointed, sometimes humorous commentary on the new political regime. She obviously doesn't support Hitler, but she also isn't yet seeing the ramifications that the changes in Germany will have on her life. By the end of the book, that has changed. Friends of hers are getting denounced and turned in, she is pulled in for questioning, people are dying, and she is fleeing.

A moving and important novel that is also enjoyable and quick to read. I definitely recommend and appreciate the LTers who brought it to my attention.

Original publication date: 1937
Author’s nationality: German
Original language: German
Length: 168 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library book
Why I read this: on my library wish list, "women in translation", same era as The Seventh Cross

Editado: Jan 15, 11:46 am

>100 japaul22: A brilliant (imho) and chilling novel set in Hitler's Berlin during the war, and written immediately afterwards, is Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada. It's also been published in English as Alone in Berlin. It's about an older couple who become embittered when their son is killed during the German invasion of France and attempt to take some small actions of resistance.

It looks like I'm going to have to put The Seventh Cross and After Midnight on my reading list.

Jan 15, 11:51 am

>100 japaul22: - Nice review, Jennifer. I have this one in my stacks...

Jan 15, 12:19 pm

>100 japaul22: I like the sound of this one. Nice review!

Jan 15, 12:40 pm

>100 japaul22: echoing above. This sounds terrific and insightful.

(Off-topic side note : I find it so strange that Nabokov was there in the 1930’s, in Berlin, writing furiously, with a Jewish spouse, and yet never mentioned the situation at all. This wasn’t tacit support. He just didn’t write about it.)

Jan 15, 1:13 pm

>65 japaul22:, >84 japaul22:, >100 japaul22: Sheesh, Jennifer, enough with the BBs already😊 A lot of great reading!

Editado: Jan 15, 2:15 pm

>101 rocketjk: Every Man Dies Alone is an excellent book. I think I’ve read another book by Fallada. I liked it partly because it was written immediately after the war. So many books recently have - I hesitate to say “used” the Holocaust - let’s say used the Holocaust as a setting without having a deep connection.

I am currently reading The Statement by Brian Moore, set in France in the 1990s about the uncovering of the collaboration of parts of the Catholic Church with the Nazis under the Vichy government during the war.

Jan 15, 2:22 pm

>100 japaul22: Child of All Nations is another good one by Irmgard Keun.

Have you read Shanghai 37 by Vicki Baum? As a writer of popular rather than literary fiction she's not as impressive a writer as Anna Seghers, but Shanghai 37 is interesting to read after Seghers' Transit. Where Transit is about people waiting desperately to get the papers to leave Europe, Baum's book is about a disparate group of people who have escaped to Shanghai.

Jan 15, 2:34 pm

>106 kjuliff: I know what you mean. Every Man Dies Alone, though, is not really about the Holocaust at all, as you know, but rather about life in Berlin during the war. But, yes, that sense of immediacy you refer to is a big part of the book's power, I think.

Jan 15, 3:23 pm

>101 rocketjk: I will put that on my list, thanks!

>102 katiekrug: We must have both seen it on someone's LT thread. :-)

>103 rachbxl: I think you'd like this one

>104 dchaikin: I hadn't thought of that regarding Nabokov - I don't think I knew he was in Germany in the 1930s. I think I've still only read Lolita and Pnin - I need to get back to his writing.

>105 kac522: Sorry!! You'll probably be one of the few who owns the persephones I'll be reading over the next couple years, too. I'm buying even more from Elaine . . . :-)

>106 kjuliff: The Statements sounds interesting as well. Too many books . . .

>107 pamelad: And more book suggestions that sound good . . . I did love Transit.

Jan 15, 4:52 pm

>107 pamelad: I knew someone who escaped to Shanghai as a child with his father about 1937-38, so I'm adding that book to the mile-long Wishlist.

Editado: Jan 15, 5:06 pm

>100 japaul22: I would add After Midnight to my wishlist, but it's already there thanks to Barry's recent review. I will add Shanghai 37. Chiming in with love for Every Man Dies Alone. Chilling and memorable.

Edited to fix touchstone

Jan 15, 5:07 pm

>107 pamelad: Shanghai 37 sounds interesting (I have Baum's Grand Hotel), but then there's Shanghai in 1941 when the Japanese invaded and set up internment camps, as depicted in Empire of the Sun, a book I loved.

Jan 15, 5:25 pm

>112 arubabookwoman: I’ve never read Empire of the Sun either. The list just keeps growing!

Jan 15, 7:29 pm

>113 japaul22: that’s a book i loved, Empire of the Sun. It was a favorite movie of mine long before i read it.

Jan 16, 6:35 am

Our area had gone 728 days without snow until yesterday. We got about 4 inches of snow yesterday and overnight. School and work are canceled! I picked up a thriller, The Maidens by Alex Michaelides, just for fun and will likely finish it today.

Jan 16, 6:44 am

Hi Jennifer!
Funny you mention the 728 days without snowfall. We decided to buy our current house in early January 2021, and came down for the inspection right around the time of that snowfall. Yesterday we were trying to remember if we'd seen any snow since then. It looks like we got 2-3" out our way and the schools are closed here too.

Jan 16, 6:54 am

>116 lauralkeet: "728" is such a big number - good to put a life-event with it to give it some meaning. I love getting some snow in the winter. Last year was pretty sad without any. Hope your dogs enjoy it!

Jan 16, 9:35 am

#6 The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

The beginning of this thriller/mystery was interesting enough. A young woman who is a group psychoanalyst gets a call from her college-aged niece that a friend has been murdered and she thinks she knows who did it. Mariana goes to support her niece and gets wrapped up in investigating the crime. Unfortunately, the story becomes really ridiculous and there are lots of cliche lines. I almost gave up with a hundred pages left, but I decided to see it through. The ending sort of surprised me, but only because it didn't really make sense.

Fine enough for a quick book to read on a snow day, but not really recommended.

Original publication date: 2021
Author’s nationality: Cyprus, currently in London
Original language: English
Length: 337 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library book sale
Why I read this: wanted a page turner

Jan 16, 11:14 am

Shanghai '37 is a book it took me a long time to find, no matter how diligently I searched, and then I found a first edition. It is interesting compared with Seghers's book. I felt Baum didn't quite capture Shanghai at that time, focussing instead on the refugees, so that the dangers in the city for the most part appeared incidental, when really it was one of the most dangerous places on earth. Seghers, on the other hand, did give a real sense of Marseille. Admittedly, the refugees were the story, but the given the title, the city seemed to be missing somewhat.
Shanghai, like Marseille, was a place people were desperate to leave. It was easier for awhile, but only a while.

Jan 16, 11:18 am

>119 SassyLassy: yes, I did a super quick search for Shanghai 37 and found that it isn't easily available, though I think I could find a second hand copy. I have Grand Hotel on my shelves that nyrb published (same author, right?). I will probably read that first.

Jan 16, 2:04 pm

>115 japaul22: Same here, Jennifer! The Philadelphia area received 2-3 inches of snow last night, the first measurable (1 inch or more) snowfall in 715 days. We had 2.5 inches of snow where I live, just north of Philadelphia, and, to my great surprise, my school district (Neshaminy) is closed today. That would not have happened when I was a student there!

Jan 16, 2:39 pm

>121 kidzdoc: Fairfax County closes for snow so quickly. In fact, I won't be surprised at all if school is delayed or even canceled again tomorrow - even though we've had no snow or precipitation since about 3 am.
Needless to say, where I grew up outside of Chicago, we would never have gone to school from November-April if we cancelled school every time there were a couple inches of snow. It is true, though, that the DC area doesn't do snow removal well, and, more importantly it seems that most people here have no idea how to drive in it safely!

Jan 16, 4:18 pm

My college was notorious for never cancelling classes due to weather except

An article in The Sun and New York Herald from March 7, 1920, noted that on March 6, {the college} canceled classes for the first time since 1888 after receiving two feet of snow within ten hours.


after the blizzard of 1978, the College canceled classes on Feb. 7 for the only time in recent history after 36 inches of snow blanketed the Upper Valley.


between 1866 and 1947, the average amount of snowfall per winter was 72.8 inches. Furthermore, the total snowfall in a single winter exceeded 100 inches six times during these 82 winters, with the winter of 1866-67 holding the record for the most amount of snowfall, at 116.5 inches of snow for the season.

When I attended, students (and professors) often had to ski or snowshoe to class! Kids these days... :-)

Editado: Jan 16, 10:05 pm

>122 japaul22: We only have a couple inches on the ground, but with the temps barely at 0, Chicago Public Schools did close today, but it is a rare occasion. It's just dangerous out there to have kids waiting for parents and buses, etc. Schools were open on Friday when the snowstorm blew through. Then we got rain later in the day, which washed away most of the snow.

Jan 16, 4:40 pm

>124 kac522: I remember a week in the 90s when the actual temperature highs were below zero and we got an entire week of school because of the cold. And because the buses wouldn't start!

Our school district already announced a two hour delayed start for tomorrow.
>123 labfs39: definitely not as tough as you Maine-ers! Those are some incredible statistics!

Jan 24, 8:04 pm

I definitely needed this reminder that I've had After Midnight on my to-read list for at least ten years now. Maybe this is finally the year!

Jan 24, 10:21 pm

>118 japaul22: I wondered what you'd make of The Maidens. It certainly taught me that publishers think a very standard thriller counts as "literary" if it's set at a prestigious school and someone quotes a few dead guys.

>122 japaul22: When we moved to Munich from Greenville, SC, the kids were astonished to find that they still had to go to school even when there was actual snow on the ground.

Jan 25, 6:54 am

>127 RidgewayGirl: yes, that's a good point about The Maidens. Also maybe how the author markets himself?

Editado: Jan 25, 11:08 am

#7 North Woods by Daniel Mason

I LOVED this book. It is a bit hard to describe, but a plot of land in Western Massachusetts anchors the stories as we learn about the lives of the people who lived there from the 1600s through the future. Each generation makes and experiences connections to the past and influences the future - sometimes through objects, sometimes through the environment, and sometimes through spiritual connections. At first, though the descriptions of the environment are beautiful, I didn't realize what a large part of the book the natural world would be. As the book progresses, that element of the story enlarges and becomes more meaningful.

I loved all the small details that connect each generation. I did a lot of rereading as I went through the book. Sometimes I'd think I remembered the reference, but wanted to go back and reread the section referred to and I'm glad I took the time to do that. The book is laid out in a manner that makes this very easy to do.

Highly recommended!

Original publication date: 2023
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 372 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: borrowed from a friend
Why I read this: rec by a friend and sounded interesting

Jan 25, 11:16 am

Nice review of North Woods, Jennifer. Onto the wish list it goes.

Jan 25, 1:47 pm

Excellent review. I’ve been curious about this. Glad you enjoyed it and now encouraged us to.

Jan 25, 3:24 pm

>129 japaul22: It’s already on my wishlist thanks to Cariola, so I guess now it’s double-wishlisted? Anyway it does sound appealing.

Jan 27, 6:58 am

#8 East Angels by Constance Fenimore Woolson

Last year I read Anne by Constance Fenimore Woolson after learning about the author on a vacation to Mackinaw Island in Michigan. I loved that book - 5 star read with great characters a fun plot and great descriptive writing. I've been looking forward to reading more of Woolson's work and picked up East Angels next. Unfortunately, I didn't find it as well done as Anne.

East Angels is about love and secrets and bad choices. There is a young girl, Garda, who is the focus of the first half of the book. As she grows up, her love interests are the focus of the book. In the second half, the interest sort of shifts to a slightly older woman who is Garda's guardian and we get to hear her back story and follow whether she'll end up happy or remain in her frustrating marriage.

The plot is pretty weak. And the characters, especially the secondary characters, are stereotypical and not particularly developed. The one thing that I still enjoyed in this book is the setting and nature writing. This takes place in Florida, I think in the St. Augustine area, and Woolson really evokes the setting well and incorporates the setting into the plot. This saved the book for me.

I hate writing a negative review about a lesser-known woman author, especially when I loved the first book I read by her, but I wouldn't really recommend reading this as an example of Woolson's work. I will give her another try since I've been split on the two novels that I've read by her.

Original publication date: 1886
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 550 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Why I read this: learned about the author on a vacation and loved her first book

Jan 27, 7:04 am

Also taking a BB for North Woods. You sell it well!

Jan 27, 9:36 am

Long dull reads are never fun. 19th-century St Augustine does sound like an interesting setting.

Jan 30, 4:37 pm

North Woods is on my virtual pile—started it, had to put it down for work/book club/library hold reading, but I want to get back to it because I loved the beginning.

And—late the conversation, but I'm just catching up on people's threads after a couple of weeks away—I think I'm one of the few people who liked the last chapters of Killers of the Flower Moon. Probably because of the journalistic component, which always interests me, but I can see how it could be off-putting (or at least boring) if that wasn't someone's focus.

I was in Baltimore the weekend before last for a conference and it was SO cold! Also, subpar snow and ice removal, at least for the first few days after the second snowstorm.

Jan 30, 6:54 pm

>134 AlisonY: I hope you try it Alison, I'd like to hear what you think of it.

>135 dchaikin: Yep, the setting was definitely the best part

>136 lisapeet: We had a few days that were really cold! And then we had a day when it was 80 just a week later. So strange. I'll look forward to your North Woods review. Glad to hear Killers of the Flower Moon worked for you.

Fev 1, 5:12 pm

#9 The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Reading North Woods made me want a reread of The Scarlet Letter. This is a book I read junior year of high school that taught me how to explore symbolism, themes, and allegory. I reread the paperback that I used in high school that had lots of handwritten notes in it.

Hawthorne gets a lot of things right in this novel. The situation - the woman who is caught in adultery because of pregnancy and refuses to name her partner - is explored deeply and several angles of it are developed. There is beautiful symbolism within the characters themselves, their names, their actions, and their dialogue. And I grew to see the characters as more than just symbols or plot devices. I find the ending dramatic but satisfying and at least mildly realistic.

But there are a couple things that bothered me this time around. Mainly I didn't feel that Hawthorne really captured the time period. He throws in names of people who were actually living in the 1600s, but beyond that I wasn't convinced. There isn't much detail about daily life to place the book in the setting/time period he desires.

I remembered this book fondly enough that 16 year old me rated it 5 stars. This time around I'd put it at a 4.

Original publication date: 1850
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 270 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: paperback from high school
Why I read this: wanted a reread after the beginning of North Woods reminded me of it

Fev 2, 11:50 am

Well, that takes me back to high school as well. Although I mainly remember finding it interminably boring. I don’t remember how much I managed to read then. I didn’t read for fun then. (I hated Ethan Frome then too, but read it again recently and found it wonderful.) Anyway, I find your revisit quite interesting.

Fev 2, 1:00 pm

One funny note about reading The Scarlet Letter as a 16 year old. The way I remembered it for decades after was as actually being written in the 1600s. I don't know if I didn't realize (despite the long introductory chapter) that it was historical fiction when I read it the first time, or if I just misremembered. But I was probably in my 30s before I thought, wait, Hawthorne was writing in the 1800s, not the 1600s. :-)

Editado: Fev 2, 1:33 pm

>138 japaul22:, >139 dchaikin:, >140 japaul22: I hated The Scarlet Letter in high school as well. It was so dark, and I think that I, too, thought it was written in the 1600s. And it was just so dark and creepy and I did not understand all the guilt.

Then some years ago for a book club I read Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance which I actually enjoyed. So with a lot of misgivings, I re-read The Scarlet Letter a few years ago and loved it. I am absolutely sure that I did not understand all of the themes and implications of the book as a freshman in high school. Nor did I appreciate the layers, which fascinated me on my adult reading: me in the 21st century reading a book by Hawthorne written in the 19th century about the 17th century. There's a lot to unpack there about the varying levels of cultural and moral values.

Fev 4, 7:54 am

>141 kac522: I'm so glad I wasn't the only confused about The Scarlet Letter being written as historical fiction! Glad you gave it a second chance as an adult - I think it's a great book. I'm glad the teacher I had in high school was able to make it interesting and memorable for me.

Fev 4, 8:03 am

>140 japaul22: >141 kac522: Add me to the list of the people who were convinced (until this moment, for my part) that The Scarlett Letter had been written in the 1600s. Learn something new everyday. :)

Fev 4, 8:03 am

#10 William - An Englishman by Cicely Hamilton

Persephone book #1. Another excellent book from Persephone that I would never have found otherwise. One thing I love about the Persephone publications is that they don't really do a book summary on the book jacket, so unless you dig a little, as a reader you really don't know what you're getting into. That worked really well for this novel.

In William - An Englishman, William is sort of floundering as an adult. His domineering mother has died and left him enough money to live on. He falls into a political group dedicated to pacifism and women's suffrage. There he meets Griselda and the two fall in love. For their honeymoon they travel to Belgium. Before they leave they hear that "some Archduke" has been assassinated, but it feels remote and they continue their honeymoon travels. While there, on a secluded farm in the countryside, they start to hear distant "thunder" and the family hosting them disappears. It becomes violently clear that they are trapped in the middle of a world war. The rest of the book details their war experience, and I won't give away any additional plot.

I really liked this. The plot was exciting and the character development and insights into WWI were well-written.

Original publication date: 1919
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 226 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: Persephone purchased from Elaine
Why I read this: off the shelf

Fev 4, 10:34 am

>144 japaul22: - This is one of the few Persephones I have. Glad to hear it's a good one!

Fev 4, 2:14 pm

>144 japaul22: That sounds good, and I was just able to purchase it on Kindle for $1.99. Persephones are lovely, but I do most of my reading on ebooks anyway, so I won't mind not reading it in a Persephone volume. (Not too much, anyway).

Fev 4, 3:55 pm

>146 arubabookwoman: nice! I’ve read about 10 Persephones now and I feel like they all are similar in b sone way I can’t put my finger on. Even from different eras - they like to publish a certain kind of book. So if you like that sort, I think they seem to be pretty consistent good read.

Editado: Fev 5, 12:58 pm

I finished the first section of letters in My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. This is a BIG book that I'm reading slowly, so I'll give impressions along the way. This first section spans 1915-1918 and is over 300 pages (large, oversized pages with small type) of letters. During this time period, O'Keeffe and Stieglitz are getting to know each other. They had met briefly in New York, and then O'Keeffe has been teaching in Virginia and Texas. They have a large age difference - she is still in her twenties, and he is in his fifties, married and with an almost adult child. Her letters are impressionistic and emotional, his are more matter of fact and traditional. However as the letters progress, their styles seem to meet in the middle. Hers generally concern her art, her health (which was not good), and her relationships with fellow teachers/people in her community. His revolve around his art gallery, his failing marriage, and his cultural experiences in NYC. They both address their feelings about the World War. They both talk about the weather a lot. :-) Their letters grow more passionate as they get to know each other. By the end of this time period, they are enamored enough with each other that O'Keeffe moves to New York and Stieglitz finally ends his marriage.

I'm enjoying these and will continue with the book at my slow pace.

My initial impressions from Jan 3:
I've started a BIG book that doesn't fit either of my themes but that I've been meaning to read since I received it Christmas of 2022. The book is My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. I've enjoyed O'Keeffe's art. I knew basically nothing about Stieglitz or their relationship until I received this book. The two were decades apart in age when they met and they quickly developed a romantic and, I guess you would say spiritual, connection through writing letters to each other. This book is just a fraction of their prodigious output of letters from 1915-1933. It encompasses the first years of their relationship, their happy years together, a stretch when their relationship begins to fall apart, and how they stitched it back together. They exchanged over 5000 letters (25,000 pages!) over their lives. This first volume contains 650 letters.

I've read the first 70 pages of this giant sized 800 page book and I think I'll stick with it. O'Keeffe writes artistically - almost in an abstract way and even the script and page breaks and symbols she uses are interesting and I'd say indicative of her personality (pictures of some of the letters are included). Steiglitz is a more traditional writer and writes lyrically and very descriptively. I think it's going to be an interesting and memorable book. The book is divided into 3 large sections, so I'll likely do a review after each section.

Fev 5, 11:51 am

>148 japaul22: - Woolf? Was that his pet name for her?

The books sounds really interesting. I'm glad you'll share your thoughts as you make your way through it!

Fev 5, 12:57 pm

>149 katiekrug: Oh boy, I shouldn't write these things in a hurry - O'Keeffe, not Virginia Woolf!! I'll change it.

Fev 5, 6:38 pm

>144 japaul22: I’m happy to read your reviews of these Persephones

>148 japaul22: glad you’re posting updates. Fascinating.

Fev 6, 9:11 pm

>141 kac522: I LOVED The Scarlet Letter in high school. I thought it was brilliant. There were plenty of other required classics that I hated, but that one I loved.

Fev 6, 11:49 pm

>144 japaul22: Loved your review. I shall be putting this on my tbr list. A real find. Thank you.

Fev 7, 6:03 pm

>148 japaul22: Keep the reviews coming please

Fev 8, 1:42 pm

#11 A Modern Family by Helga Flatland

I had high hopes for this one, but it didn't really work for me. It's about a family - parents in their 70s and three adult children - and the parents decide to get a divorce. This completely upends the adult children and they all take a turn having sections of the novel told from their point of view. The problem, for me, is that there is an odd and off-putting amount of introspection and self-knowledge given to each of the characters. It feels over-analytical and contrived. Closer to what a psychologist would say about the situation than someone living it. I'll give an example - the whole book is like this.

I've wondered lately if she's right, if the reason the divorce might be getting to me so much is that I don't have any independent sense of security, as Ellen still calls it. I am entirely anchored in those around me. But I've never wanted to be alone, to be independent. I've always considered it important to relate to others, to take it in, to be a part of something bigger, a community. Ellen's solitary existence never appealed to me, it always seemed fickle and indistinct, something I've been happy to escape. Whenever Ellen told me in my twenties that I was missing out, I thought she was referring to the parties, the flirtations, the freedom. It never struck me that I might have been missing out on something more fundamental, something that exists - or at least ought to exist - within me.


They've become amplified versions of themselves, their inward and outward mannerisms have intensified, and both have become more self-centered, I think, though Liv disagrees - she thinks that I consider them more self-centered just because I'm an adult and therefore naturally receive less attention myself, something that would suggest that it's actually ME who's become more self-centered, or at the very least, self-important.

I wonder if this is a translation issue, or if I simply don't like the style. It feels fussy and overwrought. Anyway, I'm glad I gave it a try, because Helga Flatland is a very popular Norwegian author, but I don't think her style is for me.

Original publication date: 2017
Author’s nationality: Norwegian
Original language: Norwegian, translated by Rosie Hedger
Length: 241 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle purchase
Why I read this: women in translation, Norwegian author

Fev 8, 8:58 pm

>155 japaul22: maybe if a character was peculiar, they might think like that. Anyway, kudso for getting through it. I think I’ll pass.

Fev 11, 7:44 am

>156 dchaikin: maybe the problem was that all the characters were like that. I know Rachel recently read and loved one of Helga Flatland's books and I feel like we usually have similar taste. Maybe I'll check that one out before giving up on her altogether.

Editado: Fev 11, 10:10 am

#12 All Systems Red by Martha Wells
This is the first in a sci fi series featuring a "murderbot" - part human, part robot (to simplify) - designed to provide security for humans. It seems to be sometime in the future when different groups of humans are exploring new worlds and places to live.

This is not my usual fare, but I bought it for my 14 year old son who usually likes sci-fi type books. I read it because he wanted to talk about it. Neither of us really liked this. We both felt that the author just dumped us in to the middle of the situation without giving enough background or time for world-building. Maybe if you read more of this genre there were cues that I didn't pick up on? It's very short, and to me it felt more like an outline of the major plot points of the story that then the author should have gone back through and filled out with detail, character development, flashbacks, etc. I also didn't find the murderbot charming or funny like I've heard places. I thought of it as a woman, fellow Club Read-ers. :-)

Lots of people love this, so don't let me put you off!

Original publication date: 2017
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 144 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased for my son for Christmas
Why I read this: my son wanted to talk about it

Fev 11, 10:04 am

>158 japaul22: I couldn’t get into that series either, so you are not alone. But so many people have really enjoyed the Murderbot series.

Fev 11, 10:05 am

>158 japaul22: Sorry this didn't work for you, Jennifer!

Fev 11, 10:11 am

>159 kjuliff: >160 labfs39: it's just really not my preferred genre. I wouldn't have read it at all except that I like to encourage my son's reading and book talk!

Fev 11, 12:29 pm

>158 japaul22: It's too bad you didn't like the book but it is so cool that your son encouraged you to read it to be able to talk about it! :)

Fev 13, 9:46 pm

I really do need to give Hawthorne another chance at some point. I read The Blithedale Romance in college for an American novel class and hated every character SO much it made me furious. However, that was almost twenty years ago now (so strange to realize), so it does feel like I should stop holding a grudge against him.

Fev 14, 1:34 pm

>162 chlorine: I was glad he read it too! He used to read pretty voraciously, but he's fallen out of the habit in the last year or two, so I'll do anything to keep him interested - including reading books that aren't my normal fare!

>163 mabith: I think he's due another chance, for sure! I haven't read the Blithdedale Romance, but I liked both The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables.

Fev 14, 1:55 pm

#13 Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis by Kim Todd

Earlier in the year I read a nonfiction book about butterflies that referenced Maria Sibylla Merian, and I immediately knew I wanted to know more detail about this 17th century woman's life. Kim Todd's biography of Merian is fantastic - delving into what is known of Merian's life and solidly placing her in context of the world and times she lived in. It's also a beautiful book that includes Merian's artwork throughout.

Merian was a German woman whose father was a printer. From early in childhood she was involved in printing and engraving, which set the stage for her forays into portraying the life cycles of the caterpillars she was obsessed with. She published 3 books with colored plates depicting the life cycle of butterflies, based on her detailed and laborious work studying the insects. As an adult, Merian was part of a Labadist movement - a religious sect that encouraged a direct connection of each person with the Bible and God and tried to remove the distractions of possessions. The Labadists had connections with a colony in Surinam in South America and at the grand age of 52, Merian decided to make a trip there with her daughter to study the insects and animals of the region. While she was there, she ran up against many problems, one being the sheer volume of insects. Also, it was dangerous to spend time in the rain forest collecting and observing. There was also the excessive heat, enslaved people in revolt, and disease to contend with. Nonetheless, she collected many specimens, created many notebooks and journals of observations and studies, and spent time with the native people learning from them what they already knew of the wildlife of the region. After two years she returned to Europe and put together another book, based on her studies in Surinam.

Merian was a trail blazer in the idea of studying insects in their own environments and following one insect through its life cycle. Her exquisite art work generally shows all stages of the insect's life. She'll draw the plant it feeds on, show the caterpillar munching away, include the pupa, larvae, and emerged butterfly as well. This was not something that others in the field were doing. In the last chapters, Todd explores why Merian's work has been discounted and overlooked and how that is beginning to change.

I really enjoyed this biography and high recommend it.

Original publication date: 2007
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 328 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: following up on hearing about the subject in another book, LT rec from markon and qebo

Fev 14, 6:15 pm

Taking an immediate book bullet on Chrysalis, sounds like exactly my sort of thing.

Fev 14, 7:34 pm

>166 mabith: Oh good! I hope you get to it - it was very good.

Fev 15, 12:44 am

>165 japaul22: that sounds good. I like books about the Amazon.

Fev 16, 3:33 pm

#14 Hunger by Knut Hamsun

Hunger is about a starving writer who is, you guessed it!, hungry. I loved it. The main character is a young man trying to make it as a writer, but he is so poor and unable to find work that pays, that he is literally starving. Instead of writing, he spends much of his time looking for shelter and sustenance, or walking around trying to take his mind off of his hunger. In between, he works on his writing and sometimes comes up small sums of money, either for his work or by accident. He's obviously educated and I wonder why he had no support system at all. It's also clear that some of the people he interacts with have no idea just how close he is to starving to death.

Not much happens in this book. The main character interacts with a few people, but largely the book takes place inside his head and stomach. In some ways, when I reflect back on it, I have a hard time putting my finger on why I liked it so much. I think it's because it was honest, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and because the main character is both maddening and admirable.

Original publication date: 1890
Author’s nationality: Norwegian
Original language: Norwegian
Length: 134 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle purchase
Why I read this: Norwegian author, 1001 books

Fev 16, 4:21 pm

>165 japaul22: Definitely one to investigate! Good to see her artwork is included.

>169 japaul22: Interesting to see this reviewed. I read it at the end of 2023, so naturally didn't get around to posting about it.

I think I may have found this more bleak than you did.
Without spoilers, did you think the ending was credible?

After reading this, I read Hamsun's Pan in January, which I will review, since it's the beginning of the year, and I'm still above water! I've also read his Wayfarers, a somewhat more standard type of novel.

Fev 16, 5:31 pm

>170 SassyLassy: I thought the ending was a little abrupt, but also, something had to give for him and I was happy to see a concrete step. Though I'm skeptical he'd be a good fit for the new path. I guess it made me also realize that so much of the book was interior thoughts of the main character. The ending sort of brought back to reality that he was a real person with an exterior life as well.

I've also read Growth of the Soil by Hamsun, which I had a hard time with. I didn't like the dialogue and there were some very disturbing scenes that I had a hard time with.

Fev 16, 5:57 pm

>169 japaul22: I've put this book on my list of books to look for. I do love a struggling artist narrative.

Fev 17, 1:30 pm

>169 japaul22: I was glad to have read Hunger, but I found it relentlessly bleak. I've usually a good stomach for literary bleakness, but there was such despair in this book I was glad to get to the end of it.

Fev 17, 1:34 pm

Fev 17, 2:51 pm

>171 japaul22: Thanks for responding. That makes sense.

>173 AlisonY: I think that "despair" and bleakness were part of the reason I was just unable to write about it, and I'm certainly one who reads bleakness.

Fev 17, 3:00 pm

Interesting. Of course I agree it is bleak, but I found some glimpses of humor or at least levity as well. I think it stemmed from the idea that I had that this was one phase in this person's life and I never got the impression that it would last forever. I felt that the main character knew what he wanted (as far as being a writer) and that part of his stubbornness in being unwilling to ask for help when it was in front of him and being unwilling to accept when the universe cut him a break was actually because he knew he wouldn't deep down be in this situation forever. I think he had a confidence in his ability to make it as a writer eventually.

Maybe I got it all wrong!

Fev 21, 5:43 pm

#15 Learned By Heart by Emma Donoghue

After loving most of Donoghue's novels, I finally found one I really didn't like. I thought the premise was promising. It's historical fiction based on Anne Lister and her early teen years at a girls' boarding school. I didn't know anything about Lister, but she was a famous in the early 19th century for her diaries in which she described her lesbian relationships and non-traditional approach to life as a woman. There was a recent tv show about her called Gentleman Jack.

This novel describes a relationship between a young teen named Eliza Raine and Anne Lister. They are young, 15, and roommates at boarding school. Raine's father was British and her mother was Indian and Eliza lived in India til she was six. Her brown skin is going to cause her problems in the marriage market. Eliza and Lister develop a friendship that turns physical. But life will conspire to keep them apart.

There were a lot of problems with this book. I usually like a good boarding school novel, but in this the daily details were boring and none of the characters - students or teachers - came to life for me. Anne and Eliza's relationship didn't ring true to me either. For the first half of the book they are friends, but I didn't see a spark there to develop into a romantic relationship. But then suddenly they are having wild sex all night, every night. And the book is interspersed with letters from Eliza to Anne and it's clear that 10 years after the boarding school events, she is in an insane asylum. But why? There wasn't any lead up to this or explanation.

I could go on and on with the problems. I have really enjoyed the other books I've read by Donoghue, but I'd pass on this one.

Original publication date: 2023
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 336 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library
Why I read this: usually like the author's novels

Fev 21, 6:37 pm

>169 japaul22: I recently reviewed another of his books. About halfway in I looked him up as I’d never heard of Hamsun and was shocked to learn he was a Hitler supporter. I liked his book Mysteries but now I don’t feel good about reading his novels. Though he was a good if not excellent writer and ahead of his literary times.

Fev 21, 6:42 pm

>178 kjuliff: I didn't know that. It's a tricky subject - whether or not to read authors if they hold beliefs/political ideology you don't agree with. Supporting Hitler is a pretty extreme example that I'm sure we can all agree is awful, but, in general, it is something I don't weigh too heavily in choosing books. Are there other authors you avoid because of their beliefs?

Fev 21, 6:56 pm

>179 japaul22: No. This is the first one I had trouble with. He actually visited Goebbels and he wrote and published an obituary upon Hitler’s death, so it was no small thing. I didn’t know anything about him till I looked him up. I wanted to read more of his works and it was then that I read about his politics.

I can overlook most aspects of a writer or any artist, but a Nazi supporter in WWII is pushing it for me. See my review of Mysteries in LT.

Fev 21, 7:18 pm

>179 japaul22: This Guardian article sums up the Knut Hamsun problem.
The Nazi novelist you should read.

Fev 21, 7:36 pm

>181 kjuliff: Interesting. I googled a little more about him as well. Definitely hard to stomach. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Editado: Fev 22, 2:15 pm

I've finished the second section of My Faraway One. This is a shorter section of letters between O'Keeffe and Stieglitz, spanning the years 1922-1928. These are from the early days of their marriage. The letters become a bit more down-to-earth. O'Keeffe's in particular grow in confidence. She seems to come into her own in these years. O'Keeffe and Steiglitz obviously have a deep love and similar views on life, art, and beauty. But their age difference starts to cause problems. O'Keeffe clearly has more vitality in her 30s than Steiglitz in his 60s, who has health problems. She doesn't seem to enjoy visiting his family vacation home and often goes to Maine instead. This creates a need for letters. Also, Stieglitz's flirtations with other women wear on O'Keeffe and several time she flees for space and solitude. O’Keeffe also makes a trip to Wisconsin to visit family. She is obviously inspired by both the landscape and the company. I think it starts to reveal her discontent with being so bound to Stieglitz’s family and family vacation home at Lake George where they are expected all summer every summer.
The letters mainly talk about their relationship, their art, other artists they interact with, some politics, nature, and what they are reading.

The last section of this volume spans 1929-1933 and is about 350 pages long. I expect it will take a few months to finish.

My on the previous sections of the book are here

Fev 21, 9:46 pm

Re Hamsun, I read his Growth of the Soil a few years back. I thought it was a very interesting novel. But I looked up his story then, too. Ugh. But I'm still glad I read the book. I don't know that I'd avoid reading more of his novels for that reason. But that's definitely a to each his/her/their own situation for me.

Editado: Fev 21, 10:14 pm

>177 japaul22: too bad about the Donoghue novel. After Sappho covers that time and place and mentality. But if Anne Lister shows up, I’ve forgotten her.

>183 japaul22: fascinating again. Glad you’re posting these updates

Fev 22, 6:38 am

>177 japaul22: Jennifer, sorry the book was a dud. Gentleman Jack was really good though, so you might want to check it out (it's on HBO). I didn't know anything about Anne Lister either, and I love stories about strong women in history.

Fev 22, 7:30 am

>185 dchaikin: After Sappho looks just right for me - I'll put it on the ever-growing "list".

>186 lauralkeet: I'm not much of a show-watcher, but I did notice there are a couple books of Anne Listers's diaries that I might check out.

Fev 22, 3:59 pm

>177 japaul22: I have read and enjoyed three of Emma Donoghue's books and was starting to think of her as a go-to for a light historical fiction, but your review makes me think that this is one I can safely forego. I too dislike when something extreme happens (insane asylum) with no explanation.

Fev 22, 9:20 pm

>177 japaul22: Emma Donoghue is an auto-read for me so I had this on my wishlist already without even knowing what it was about. I may still read it but maybe from the library rather than purchasing.

In a weird coincidence I was flipping through channels last night and saw Gentleman Jack was on. I watched the first couple of episodes a few years ago and didn't continue (only because I think I got distracted by something else) so I've series linked it to watch it now.

Fev 22, 9:53 pm

>177 japaul22: It's too bad Learned by Heart didn't live up to the premise. Anne Lister is a figure practically built for great fictional adaptations.

Fev 23, 5:16 am

>65 japaul22: late to this thread, just saw this; Im very curious because in 1942, few if anyone knew what was happening. sounds like an interesting read

Fev 25, 5:06 pm

#16 Master Slave Husband Wife by Ilyon Woo

Master Slave Husband Wife is an interesting look at one couple's journey from being enslaved in Georgia in the 1800s through their escape and life after slavery. William and Ellen Craft are enslaved in Macon, Georgia. They are both highly skilled, William in cabinet-making and Ellen as a seamstress and house maid. They are owned by different people, but have enough range of motion because of their skills that they meet and fall in love. They both have experienced losing family members as they are sold to different owners and decide that their only path forward is to attempt escape. They come up with an ingenious idea in 1848, before the Underground Railroad is in full swing. Ellen, who looks white, will dress as a wealthy white man, also feigning illness to help keep her distance from others. William will travel as "his" slave. They say they are traveling to Philadelphia for medical treatment. The first third of the book details their escape.

Next they try to settle in Boston, but the Fugitive Slave Act, which allows enslavers to reclaim their "property" in the North puts them in peril. They have been highly visible, telling their story of escape to abolitionist groups. They try to continue this work in the North, but have to flee to England. There they continue telling their story and begin to settle, starting a family. After the Civil War, they return to the U.S., but, as we all know, the Civil War and emancipation did not mean life was all of a sudden easy or fair for Black Americans.

This book does a great job of telling Ellen and William Craft's story and including the politics of the time and other famous figures without overshadowing their lives. I found it fascinating and readable.

Original publication date: 2023
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 416 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library
Why I read this: interested in the topic, saw it on several reading lists

Fev 25, 8:10 pm

Also this book had me thinking that next year is 160 years since the end of the American Civil War. I'm considering reading the books on my shelf and list from that general time period next year, and making it kind of a theme for the year.

Fev 26, 6:09 am

>192 japaul22: that sounds like a really interesting book, Jennifer. I just added it to my library list. I like your theme idea for next year, too.

Fev 26, 9:31 am

I've added Master Slave Husband Wife to my library WL. Nice review!

Fev 26, 10:18 am

>192 japaul22: Nice review, Jennifer, and an interesting counterpoint to a more negative review I read recently.

Fev 26, 11:05 am

>196 labfs39: An LT review? I didn't notice one, but I've been busy and haven't kept up with threads very well recently. I'd love to read it if it's appropriate to share a link.

Fev 27, 11:43 am

It's my birthday! Having a quiet day - just the way I like it. Kids are at school, husband at work, and I am at home. Getting a few things done for work, doing a little yard cleanup, and definitely making some time for a book and tea this afternoon. We are going out to dinner tonight with my mom and sister, and my husband made a key lime pie for dessert. 46 is starting out well!

Fev 27, 11:49 am

Congratulations, Jennifer! It sounds like you have an idyllic birthday day planned. Enjoy!

Fev 27, 11:50 am

Happy Birthday!!!!!enjoy!

Fev 27, 12:46 pm

Happy birthday, Jennifer. Many happy returns.

Fev 27, 12:46 pm

Happy birthday Jennifer! Here's to a great year ahead.

Fev 27, 12:55 pm

Happy birthday, Jennifer! Have a great day!

Fev 27, 2:13 pm

Sounds like a great birthday. Enjoy!

Fev 27, 3:23 pm

Happy Birthday, Jennifer. Key lime pie sounds way better than cake to me!

Fev 27, 4:14 pm

Happy, happy birthday. Love key lime pie.

Fev 27, 4:43 pm

Happy Birthday, Jennifer! A quiet day is a great way to ease into another year.

Fev 27, 8:38 pm

Hope it was a lovely birthday! That definitely sounds like an ideal way to spend it (particularly the pie!).

Fev 28, 6:36 am

Thanks, everyone! Glad to see so many pie lovers chime in :-)

Fev 28, 6:53 am

#17 Fidelity by Susan Glaspell

Persephone book No. 4 is by an American author, published in the early 1900s. The story centers around a small town in Iowa and a scandalous affair. A young woman named Ruth Holland, beloved by the town, meets and falls in love with a married man a decade older than her, Stuart Williams. When he gets ill, they finally make the move to leave the town together. His wife is unwilling to give him a divorce, so they live together for the next decade unmarried in Colorado. When Ruth's father becomes terminally ill, she returns to Freeport, which brings up the whole drama again.

This book is written in a highly interior manner. The author treats every character with an omniscient point of view and describes and analyzes their feelings and motives. At first I found this a little much, and thought I would prefer to see their actions and have a little more autonomy as a reader to draw my own conclusions. But it started to really work for me about half way through the book as so many characters were explored deeply. Just a short list of the characters that I truly got to know and saw their individual point of view: Ruth Holland; Stuart Williams; Ted Holland, Ruth's younger brother; Harriet Holland, Ruth's older sister; Edith, Ruth's best friend; Deane, Ruth's best male friend and the person the town thought she'd marry; Amy, Deane's wife who can't understand Deane's reaction to Ruth when she returns; Mrs. Williams, Stuart's wife who refuses a divorce.

It was so interesting to really delve in to how all of these people were affected by Ruth and Stuart's decision. And, without giving away the plot, I thought the ending was surprising for the times and perfect.

Original publication date: 1915
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 358 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: persephone book purchased from Elaine
Why I read this: off the shelf

Fev 28, 8:47 am

>211 japaul22: I read Fidelity a few years ago and remember loving it, but not much else. Your comment about the ending prompted me to re-read my review. I wrote that "her resolution of Ruth’s central conflict is unconventional and brilliant." Clearly I agreed with you but I still don't remember a thing!

Glad you are enjoying your Persephone haul.

Fev 28, 9:22 am

>212 lauralkeet: do you want a reminder?

Stuart's wife finally agrees to get a divorce. Stuart is feeling healthy again and relieved that he and Ruth can finally get married and move for a new start. But Ruth decides that this actually frees her from staying with Stuart and she leaves him to go to NYC on her own. And she doesn't get together with Deane (the friend who has stood by her through it all) even though that's where I thought the story was headed. A pretty progressive, feminist ending, in my mind.

Fev 28, 9:31 am

Fidelity sounds really interesting! I do love it when older works surprise you. I've snagged it off Project Gutenberg.

Fev 28, 12:37 pm

>213 japaul22: Thanks Jennifer! Unconventional, and ahead of its time.

Fev 28, 12:48 pm

>215 lauralkeet: I ALWAYS forget the ends of books, so I'm happy to remind you!

Fev 28, 12:54 pm

I want to thank you for your review of William Trevor’s Love and Summer which you posted last year, I thought I’d read all of his works and seems I somehow missed this. I’ve just started reading it. He’s an amazing writer. Like you, I don’t know how he does it, but he has the ability to engage the reader without us knowing how. Thank you for your interesting and insightful review.

Fev 28, 1:17 pm

>169 japaul22: My library has Hunger by Knut Hamsun, and I'm curious about reading him, especially so after your discussion with Kate about his late life politics. Don't know when I'll get to it though.

>211 japaul22: Fidelity sounds quite intriguing as well.

Glad to hear you had a good birthday.

Fev 28, 1:18 pm

>217 kjuliff: I'm so glad you enjoyed it! And that reminds me that I have another William Trevor book on my shelf - Two Lives, which I think is a collection of two separate novellas. He's such a unique writer.

Fev 28, 1:18 pm

>218 markon: I'd love to hear your take on Hunger if you decide to read it.

Fev 28, 2:25 pm

>219 japaul22: I imagine him as a very gentle person, though he could be quite the opposite. I love the detail he puts into everyday acts.

Fev 28, 2:41 pm

>218 markon: I am very interested in reading Hunger but just can’t bring myself to do so. I have to try to remember that Hanson wrote Hungerand Mysteries books in the 1890’s, well before WWII! Perhaps I can see him as a different man than the pro-Nazi sympathizer he became.

Editado: Fev 28, 6:37 pm

#18 Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith

This novella is about a young woman, Isabel, and one day in her life. During this day at work, she reminisces about her childhood and thinks about her attractive coworker, who is a soldier recently returned from Iraq. She buys a dress for a party and goes to a party at the end of the day.

I think I liked it. Except for the party scene - that I found boring. But then the last line was impactful and wrapped things up nicely.

I think I just don't do well with this length book. Too long to be a short story, too short to be a novel. I guess there's something satisfying in finishing a book in one day.

Original publication date: 2012
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 124 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: picked it up on a whim at my local B&N
Why I read this: off the shelf

Fev 29, 8:19 am

>177 japaul22: Sorry to hear you didn't care for this one, but a very good review for us. I'm a bit late to your thread, but belated happy birthday!

Fev 29, 9:55 pm

>223 japaul22: hmm interesting

Terrific reviews of Master Slave Husband Wife and of Fidelity. And, belated happy birthday. The pie sounded wonderful

Mar 2, 7:32 pm

#19 The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Another thriller that just didn't work. I feel like I remember this one being one of the novels that really got Ruth Ware popular, but I don't think it was very good. I found the whole set up completely implausible and the main character was so annoying.

I think I've read 7 of Ruth Ware's novels now, and I'm not sure why. I guess they are entertaining in a way, but I don't think I've really loved any of them.

Original publication date: 2016
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 341 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library book
Why I read this: wanted an easy page turner

Mar 2, 8:33 pm

>226 japaul22: I find it so hard to find a good thriller or mystery lately. I have looked at a few Ruth Ware books but haven’t been captivated enough to get any. Do you have any favorite writers of these genres?

Mar 3, 8:05 am

>227 kjuliff: Let's see . . . some I thought were ok, for what they are:

The Dinner by Herman Koch
Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
I Remember You by Yrsa Siguroardottir
The Push by Ashley Audrain
Tangerine by Christine Mangan

The highest rated books that I tagged "suspense" were by Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, and Patricia Highsmith. But I put these in a slightly different category in my mind than the people I mentioned above.

Part of me is ok with reading "bad" suspense novels. When I pick those up, I really want something that takes zero effort and sucks me in or distracts me. Those are still fitting that purpose for me, even though I can't recommend them.

Mar 3, 8:25 am

Thanks so much Jennifer. I know what you mean about “bad” suspense still being distracting. I’ll work through that list. Re Highsmith - she’s one of my favorites.

Mar 3, 2:21 pm

>227 kjuliff: >229 japaul22: I was going to suggest The Push also.

Mar 3, 3:45 pm

>231 dianeham: >229 japaul22: I put The Push on hold. I’m halfway through a very strange boook - The Crying of Lot 49. I don’t know what to make of it.

Mar 3, 6:14 pm

>232 kjuliff: on of those "post modern books" (never had a decent definition of the term. for me, they basically they are books that are hell to read and dont make sense.) I tried to read it but didn't get far

Mar 3, 6:52 pm

>233 cindydavid4: I’m intrigued by individual sentences in this one, and am trying to get through it. A third of the way through.

Mar 3, 6:59 pm

The only Pynchon book I’ve read is the enormous Mason and Dixon. I read it a long time ago, before I wrote reviews or tracked my reading. I remember being confused but sort of liking it.

Mar 3, 9:34 pm

It took me six months to read Gravity's Rainbow. It was one of those books that I was in awe of even though I wasn't understanding everything there while I read it. Maybe one of these days I'll give it a reread.

Mar 3, 10:02 pm

>226 japaul22: I feel the same way. If I had to sum up Ruth Ware's novels, I'd say "Meh". I can't find anything specifically objectionable, but there's nothing really good about them either.

Mar 4, 2:08 pm

>211 japaul22: This sounds fantastic and I've put it on my list.

>223 japaul22: I was really charmed by that one, enough to buy my own copy after reading a library book. I think I'm due for a reread.

Mar 4, 2:14 pm

>236 rocketjk: That’s much how I feel about The Crying of Lot 49 - at times I think the writer is a genius. At others I think he’s high on LSD.

Editado: Mar 4, 2:42 pm

"at times I think the writer is a genius. At others I think he’s high on LSD."

Well, I'm a child of the 60s/early 70s, so those are not mutually exclusive propositions in my book. :)

Mar 4, 3:55 pm

>240 rocketjk: Ha! Of course. Those were the days, my friend..

Mar 5, 2:51 pm

>229 japaul22: >231 dianeham: - I finished The Push. It reminded me of We need to Talk About Kevin. I might review it later. I’ll try The Dinner next.

I did feel that The Push could have been better. Looking back I think the first few chapters didn’t gel with the rest of the book. It was a good idea for a novel, but with more writing experience behind her she could have done better.

Thanks again for the list.

Mar 5, 3:00 pm

>242 kjuliff: Glad The Push wasn't a total fail! I think she has another book out - I might try it sometime.

Mar 5, 3:07 pm

>243 japaul22: It wasn’t a total fail at all. It is a bit of a page turner and I thought the main characters were well drawn. I just think, given the plot, it could have been better. I will follow this writer.

Mar 5, 3:12 pm

#20 The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters
Every summer a Mi'kmaq family travels from Nova Scotia to Maine to pick blueberries and make some seasonal money. One summer, the youngest girl in this family, Ruthie, goes missing. The family looks for her everywhere, but she is not found. They return to Nova Scotia broken. The novel is told in alternating chapters between Joe, who was the next youngest child in the family and the last to see Ruthie, and Norma. It is quickly apparent to the reader that Norma is Ruthie and was likely kidnapped by this white family. The reader follows Norma and Joe's lives, wondering whether they will ever be reunited.

I really enjoyed this. It could have gone wrong a lot of ways - by being overly emotional or overly lecturing - but instead Peters simply tells a great story. She creates great characters who are fully fleshed out and creates a satisfying plot. Recommended.

Original publication date: 2023
Author’s nationality: Canadian
Original language: English
Length: 307 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library book
Why I read this: a friend recommended it

Mar 5, 4:38 pm

>245 japaul22: Hmm, I might look for this, being from Maine and all.

Mar 5, 6:27 pm

>246 labfs39: Yes, I thought of you with the setting!

Mar 5, 7:18 pm

>229 japaul22: japaul22: >231 dianeham: dianeham: - I reviewed The Push HERE Thanks again for the recommendation.

Mar 6, 10:05 am

>245 japaul22: I heard Peters being interviewed on local radio about how her family used to travel this route. It does sound interesting - maybe in blueberry season.

Mar 6, 12:27 pm

>246 labfs39: >249 SassyLassy: The Berry Pickers is not a book that is going to change your life, but it is a well-told story with some interesting themes in the background.

Mar 6, 1:31 pm

>245 japaul22: enticing review

Mar 7, 5:03 pm

I’m now reading The Dinner which I’m enjoying. Something dark in some Dutch literature. I’m also reading My Heavenly Favorite but it’s so dark that I don’t think I’ll be able to finish it.

Mar 16, 2:19 pm

#21 A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

A Fine Balance is a sweeping drama of four people who unexpectedly end up living together during a tumultuous year, 1975, in India. Dina is a middle-aged widow desperately trying to hang on to her independence, despite her brother's efforts to get her to re-marry. Maneck is a young man in the city to attend college, who left his beautiful mountain town at his parents' behest to try to better his life. The student hostel is so disgusting that he ends up renting a room from Dina, who is a distant family friend. And then there are Ishvar and Omprakash, who are tailors that end up working for Dina out of her apartment. They were also living in a rural town where their family had been on the rise out of their lower caste. But misfortunes keep arising to keep them down. The four will spend a year together during a State of Emergency declared by the Prime Minister that upends life for the lower classes in some truly horrifying and gruesome ways.

The book is grim and has moments of utter despair, pure bad luck, and unfairness. There are despicable characters, horrible deaths, and plenty of squalor. Usually I can't stomach a book like this. However, Mistry somehow balances this with some good, some lighthearted moments, and impressive writing. I was completely invested from the first chapter and just had to see where it was all going to end up. I don't think, in a book like this, it's a spoiler to say that things do not end well for all the characters. It's clear from the get go that a book this realistic will not have a fairy tale ending - though I did keep hoping for one. And I suppose that's where the title comes in. Life is "a fine balance" of hope and despair. In 1970s India, if Mistry's portrayal is at all accurate, this is all too true.

Thanks for all the LT reviews that made me finally get to this book.

Original publication date: 1995
Author’s nationality: Canadian (Indian heritage)
Original language: English
Length: 603 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: LT recs, 1001 books

Mar 16, 2:29 pm

>253 japaul22: I really appreciated your review. I think I need to reread this. Mistry was such a great novelist.

Mar 16, 3:15 pm

>253 japaul22: It's been putting this one off in part because of its length. Your review confirms I really do need to read it.

Mar 16, 3:58 pm

>253 japaul22: What a fantastic book that is! I love seeing that someone else has read it and loved it, too.

Mar 16, 5:02 pm

I've had AFB on my pile forever. Someday...

Nice review!

Editado: Mar 17, 4:26 am

>157 japaul22: Too bad about the Helga Flatland. Funnily enough, I came across the one I read (One Last Time) on my shelves yesterday and had no recollection of having read it. I recall that I enjoyed it well enough at the time, which wasn’t even 3 months ago because I know I bought it in the UK at New Year, but now all I can remember is the opening scene.

>253 japaul22: I’m so glad you liked A Fine Balance, still one of my all-time favourites. It’s 20 years since I read it but your review took me right back there. (Interesting - a book I read 20 years ago and still remember, and one I read weeks ago and have forgotten entirely).

I had a bit of catching up to do here as I haven’t been on LT much in the last month or so. The discussion about Hunger, which I haven’t read, was interesting. I read your review and thought, “Interesting, someone who often has similar tastes to mine has written a review of Hunger in which the first word isn’t ‘bleak’, maybe I’ll read it after all”, but then lots of other readers whose views I also respect immediately popped up to say it’s unremittingly bleak! I’ll just have to read it, obviously.

Mar 17, 6:54 am

>253 japaul22: I loved A Fine Balance, despite the despair and bad things happening. It was just so well written. I'm glad it was a winner for you, too.

Mar 17, 6:59 am

>254 kjuliff: I'm sure this novel would stand up very well to a reread. I intend to keep my copy.

>255 labfs39: it was so well-paced and interesting and I was so invested in the characters that I barely noticed the length. It was never a slog.

>256 RidgewayGirl: I wish I hadn't waited almost 30 years to read it!!

>257 katiekrug: It was hard to summon up the will to read it, but once I started I was hooked. In the first 30 pages, I knew I was going to love it.

>258 rachbxl: I'm often surprised at the end of a reading year at which books I remember and which I don't and how they do not always correspond to the star rating I gave.
Hunger is a hard one to recommend. I really loved it (and think I'll remember it well), but it obviously doesn't work for everyone. I can't put my finger on why it worked so well for me.

Mar 17, 7:33 am

#22 The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

We've had a lot of conversations at work lately about leadership - how those in leadership positions can improve and also how to get a more diverse group of candidates ready for when leadership roles open up. This book was suggested by one of the women on my team at work, so I listened to the audiobook.

I found a lot to interest me. I'm not a naturally confident person, at least not in the outward way that most people first define confidence, but I do have a strong inner confidence that has helped me in my leadership role at work. A lot of this book confirmed that some of my instincts are based in genetics, my upbringing, and tips that I've picked up over the years.

The book dwells quite a bit on the differences between men and women and wonders how women can be more like men in the workplace. There's a lot of generalization of course, to make these points. Men only need to feel about 40% percent confident that they are putting forth a "correct" answer/viewpoint to offer their opinion while women need to feel 100% positive that their opinions are researched and correct before they will speak. Studies have shown that men will stick to their convictions much longer than women when they are made to wait and see how things work out. Simply reminding women that they are women before they take a math test lowers their scores by a significant percentage. Men predict higher success rates on tests; women predict lower success rates on tests; actual outcomes are the same.

There is also quite a bit on raising children and what is seen in confidence even at a young age. There is quite a bit of focus on how sports can increase confidence in girls.

What I wanted more of was how to apply all this research into concrete ways to increase confidence in women, especially in women who I lead and I know need a boost. There were some ideas, but it felt crammed in at the end.

Of course, I also though the whole time, why should women try to achieve this male standard of confidence? Maybe the world would be a better place if men took a cue from how women portray confidence and lead. I think if we had more women in leadership roles in the workplace, this would shift quickly.

And, as always, my caveat with this sort of research is that the majority of men I work with do not portray these sort of male bravado or female "shrinking violet" tendencies that the book relies on. I think most people are somewhere in the middle. But, it's also true that men still overwhelmingly hold more leadership roles in the workplace than women, so I think it's worth thinking about what role confidence plays in that truth.

Original publication date: 2014
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 7 hours
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library audiobook
Why I read this: colleague recommended

Mar 17, 9:22 am

>253 japaul22: A great review. This is one of my favourite books. My parents lived in Bombay at this time; they have memories of the period, and refuse to read the book because of how evocative is of that awful time.

Mar 17, 9:31 am

>262 rv1988: So interesting to have lived there then! I kept googling things to see how true to life it was.

Mar 17, 10:08 am

>253 japaul22: Joining with others in saying what a wonderful book this is. Your review brought it right back after all this time. - definitely worth a reread.

>260 japaul22: re Hunger: I don't think being as unremitting bleak as I found it precludes it working for the reader. On that level, I found it an excellent book. Bleak is often better than balmy in my world!

>261 japaul22: Sounds interesting. Did it display many biases resulting from cultural background?

Mar 17, 10:12 am

>258 rachbxl: I dont think I read one last time how did I not!!! must do wo

Mar 17, 10:16 am

>264 SassyLassy: They almost completely left out any discussion of race and culture, probably because the science they referred to focused on male/female genetics and identity without also considering race/culture. I mean, often those studies are done on rats and mice, so male vs. female is about as far as they can go. They did include some women of color and at least one non-American or Western European example when they talked about individual women and their leadership traits/successes. But also, discussing different cultural tendencies I think would have been beyond the scope of this book.

Mar 17, 4:44 pm

>261 japaul22: Interesting review. I think sweeping ideas of the ilk that women should try to be like men in the workplace can often lead to women not being their authentic selves and trying to be something they are not. I think Jacinda Ardern, when she was New Zealand's PM, was a wonderful example of a woman leading in her own way, a way that was authentic and true to her own values. I really admired her for that.

Was there any psychology put forward as to why women feel less confident about sharing their opinions unless they know they're right? I wonder how that develops. My daughter is very like that at school - unwilling to put her hand up in case she's wrong with the answer she has in her head Certainly we've never brought her up to be like that. Is it a genetic predisposition, I wonder?

Mar 17, 5:43 pm

>267 AlisonY: Teachers often play into that bias, consciously or unconsciously. For instance, one of the ways teachers are taught to manage a classroom is to call on unruly (often male) students to answer questions. It keeps them engaged. Studies have shown that not only do teachers call on boys more often (even among those with hands up), but they often call on those in the front and on their right, more often (although I assume the right/left aspect has to do with handedness).

Mar 17, 5:56 pm

>268 labfs39: Sad but interesting. And I get it. I take a Sunday School class, and I would 100% agree that you end up engaging with the unruly kids more when they've their hands up, which is pretty much always one of the boys.

Mar 17, 6:57 pm

>267 AlisonY: they definitely come to the conclusion that "acting like" a stereotypical man in terms of confidence is not the answer. And they definitely address authenticity. But they also encourage women to sort of meet these things in the middle - be willing to point out your successes, contribute in meetings, ask for promotions/raises, etc. I'm oversimplifying of course.

And yes, there is a quite extensive section on working to create confidence in girls. Not over-praising "good" behavior is one of them - instead using more precise language for what they are doing well that is more skill or work based, not just "being good" (i.e. quiet and no trouble). Also encouraging sports or music participation. There is a genetic component to whether people are inclined to be "worriers" or "warriors" and there is also a gene labeled the "sensitivity" gene.

Mar 18, 6:40 pm

And there was the study done that showed that if women spoke (in a meeting/classroom/etc) more than about 30% of the time, they were seen (by both women and men) as dominating the conversation. Weird how biases really affect how we perceive the world...

Mar 19, 9:44 am

>266 japaul22: Thanks for responding. If they were focussing on genetics, that makes sense.

Mar 19, 12:40 pm

>264 SassyLassy: Yes, good point - bleak doesn't have to mean bad in any way. Perhaps not as much as you, but I do quite like a bit of bleak.

Mar 20, 8:33 pm

>261 japaul22: how interesting

For International Women’s Day my office held an event where four higher level women talked about their careers. It was awkward at first, but they got very passionate and it became something, questions firing them up more. They emphasized being strong and how speaking up and their boldness were so important to their success. (I was really tempted to ask them what advice they had for introverted women, but of course i didn’t say anything.)

Mar 22, 7:20 am

>271 jjmcgaffey: I liked Mary Beard's short book, Women & Power, that addresses issues like this.

>274 dchaikin: Being introverted (for both sexes) is also an interesting issue. I consider myself an introvert, but I also still consider myself confident. I have a fairly high leadership position in my organization and I actually think my quiet demeanor, willingness to listen, and choice to speak when it's needed but not to bluster or just be heard, has served me well. I understand what you're getting at though, and I do wonder sometimes what my career track would have looked like if I were an extrovert. I've always meant to read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. Has anyone read that?

Mar 22, 7:26 am

>275 japaul22: I have, and at the time I found it quite eye-opening. I found it helpful in understanding what introversion truly is, how it differs from shyness, and the implications for work style. The author uses a lot of case studies to illustrate her points which I also found interesting.

Mar 22, 7:30 am

>276 labfs39: That's good to know. I relate to that - being an introvert but not shy.

Mar 22, 7:34 am

>277 japaul22: I too am introverted but not shy or lacking confidence. My daughter is the exact opposite (a shy extrovert). The book helped me understand our different needs better.

Mar 22, 7:55 am

I had some issues with Quiet. They’re in my review.

Mar 22, 9:08 am

>279 dchaikin: Interesting, Dan. I think extroverts take up so much oxygen that it was a breath of fresh air to hear from an introvert on the subject. I didn't feel like she needed to give equal time and weight to each side, but then I didn't take this as a scientific treatise, but a popular introduction. I guess YMMV, Jennifer!

Mar 22, 9:51 am

>280 labfs39: agree that ymmv. A lot of readers found inspiration within it.

Mar 22, 9:58 am

I know I was interested in this book when it came out, and I think the mixed reviews swayed me away from reading it. We'll see . . .

Mar 22, 1:15 pm

>275 japaul22: I have that on my bookshelf and never tried it. should some time

Mar 23, 1:19 am

>275 japaul22: I've read Quiet, too, and generally appreciated it. My own review is here, for what it's worth.

Mar 23, 6:20 am

>284 bragan: Thanks for that! Interesting to see the varied responses to this book.

Editado: Mar 23, 5:24 pm

#23 Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 million Years of Evolution by Cat Bohannon

This is a hard book to review, and part of the reason is that I'm still not sure what exactly it was. Was it a book about evolutionary biology focused on women? An anthropological study of female/male relations? A look at modern cultural norms and how they influence our lives? Pop science? Serious science? Comedy?

Did I almost throw it aside in contempt several times? Yes. Was it also true that by reading a few more lines I was hooked back in each time? Yes. So I'm confused.

Here's what I know. Bohannon organized her book into nine sections that are loosely organized by one evolutionary step that our bodies, minds, or culture took and focuses in each on how the womens' bodily or societal needs were really the driver for that evolutionary step. The first section looks at developing milk glands and the ability to breastfeed. The second is about the development of our womb and growing our babies inside instead of laying eggs. The third is about our senses - much of this seems to have evolved to raise our very needy young. The fourth is about strength vs. endurance. The fifth about our use of tools. The sixth about our intelligence. The seventh about the timbre of our voice. The eighth about why in the world it would make sense from an evolutionary standpoint for women to experience menopause and lose the ability to produce offspring for such a large portion of their lives. And the last about love - monogamy, rape, sexual constraints placed on women.

I bet just reading that brief description sounds a bit overwhelming. I don't usually do a ton of highlighting in my kindle books, but in this one I highlighted 88 passages! There is a ton of interesting information in this book and I think it will end up providing a lot of background context that I use in many other places. It's one of those books that I'd love to see read and reviewed by some other LTers. I'm just not sure it achieved a cohesive tone or synthesized all the fascinating information very well. I'm also, sadly, kind of skeptical that the evolutionary science she proposes is very accurate. I don't know enough about the subject to even know, but I didn't think the tone or consistency of the information really convinced me that she had her science really thoroughly correct. I very much wonder what someone who studies evolution would think of this book (I'm sure there are a million subspecialties there). But in the end, I think I'm glad I spent the time on reading it.

Original publication date: 2023
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 624 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library kindle book
Why I read this: on lots of lists

Mar 23, 9:28 pm

Well you have me interested.Thinking it might be a book to put down and pick up again, or a book where you read the sections out of order? Or is it one to read straight thro

Mar 23, 10:35 pm

I don’t think I’d recommend reading it out of order - there’s a little bit of building upon themes and ideas - but it’s definitely good to read slowly or amongst other books.

Mar 24, 12:25 am

>286 japaul22: I’m so intrigued by your review. What was it that caused you to almost toss it aside? Very interesting! Ans kudos for getting through the giant thing

Mar 24, 7:06 am

>289 dchaikin: It is just such a strange mix of hard science and creative writing and popular science. I think I felt pulled in too many directions. And the sections that felt more like her personal opinion or personal observations made me question her assertions that originally read as established science. Parts of it reminded me of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which I had similar issues with.

Mar 24, 10:14 am

>290 japaul22: i tried Sapiens on audio as a library loan and ditched after 20 or 30 minutes. My science-y brain was very unhappy with the introduction. 🙂 (I’ve also read the intro to Eve, but it’s more of an addendum than an intro. I didn’t give me any sense of what the rest of the book might be like. But it didn’t discourage me in any way.)

Mar 28, 4:44 pm

This is my kids' spring break week. We only had a few days to go somewhere because I have to work tomorrow and over the weekend, so we went up to NYC for 3 nights. This was actually the first time we've taken the kids there. We stayed in Jersey City, which was much cheaper, clean, and easy access to the city from the PATH train. Did pizza in Greenwich Village, Central park, MoMA, Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island, a delicious ramen dinner, Spamalot, Times Square, and bagels on the way out of town. I will admit that NYC is not my favorite - probably because we don't go often enough to get out of the super-touristy areas - but it was a good intro to the city for the kids and nice to get away for a few days.

Now I need to get back to reading - still working on Tana French's new book The Hunter, which I'm actually finding kind of slow, and The Wager by David Grann which I'm really enjoying.

Mar 28, 9:43 pm

Glad you had a decent getaway to The City So Nice They Named It Twice. I always advise people to avoid Times Square if at all possible, though I get it's something maybe the kids would want to see.

Do come again and I'm sure we can show you a better time :)

Mar 29, 6:03 am

>292 japaul22: It sounds like you made a good start at seeing New York. I hope the kids enjoyed it. Our visits are much different now that my two live in Brooklyn. But our earliest visits were a lot like yours, where we usually took them to the theater and museums.

Mar 29, 11:26 am

>292 japaul22: That sounds like a great trip, all in all. I agree with Katie about missing Times Square if you can, but on the other hand, it certainly is a "sight to see."

Mar 29, 11:36 am

>292 japaul22: Yes I agree with Katie and Jerry - avoid Times Square. I’ve lived in NYC and think I’ve only passed through it twice. I plan all trips round town to avoid the ghastly place. Though of course kids’ pressure could possibly lead me their.

Mar 29, 7:11 pm

Times Square was really just a pass through - the theater we went to was close so we walked through on the way there so the kids could see it. There are lots of things to like about New York, I'm just more used to the pace of Chicago, which I prefer, since I grew up in the suburbs there.
Now that we've hit some of the main tourist points and done an "intro to Manhattan" for the kids, we can branch out next time.

Mar 29, 8:54 pm

>297 japaul22: "we can branch out next time."

There are a bunch of us LTers in NYC who would be happy to have a meet-up and/or make suggestions for neighborhood spots if you'd like. Cheers!

Mar 30, 7:07 am

>298 rocketjk: Thanks! I will keep that in mind for the next trip.

Abr 1, 4:28 am

>290 japaul22: There was a recent op-ed in the LA Times by a historian, writing about Sapiens and similar books. He really captured my discomfort with the book:

Harari’s “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” has sold some 25 million copies, counting Barack Obama and prominent Silicon Valley bros among his apostles. It argues that cognition and language produce beliefs that are shared across large groups to enable cooperation. The book imagines humanity as simply conceiving a picture and acting to make it true — like a developer designing and releasing an app — and it ignores individuals’ divergent problems, societies, thoughts and lives.

Abr 2, 6:30 am

>300 rv1988: interesting. Thanks for sharing that article!

Abr 2, 6:39 am

#24 The Hunter by Tana French

The Hunter is a sequel (or next in series?) to The Searcher and continues the story of Cal, an American police officer who retires to a small town in Ireland, and Trey, a teenage girl with a troubled family life. The two develop a father/daughter relationship, but their relationship is threatened when Trey's deadbeat father comes back to town with a business acquaintance and a scheme to con the town out of money with a convoluted plan to searching for gold on their land.

French is a great writer. She throws is fantastic character details and knows how to create complex relationships and manage plots with a lot of characters. But I never really connected with this book. I found the plot ridiculous and, even though I appreciated the writing, I really stopped caring about the characters. I hate to say it, because I still consider Tana French one of my favorite authors, but this series isn't working for me. I loved the Dublin Murder series and I've liked her standalones. I will probably continue reading anything she writes, but I'm not quite as excited as I used to be.

Original publication date: 2024
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 480 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library kindle book
Why I read this: love the author

Abr 2, 6:54 am

#25 The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny, and Murder by David Grann

This book was fun. Well, maybe fun isn't the right word for a nonfiction book about a disastrous 18th century British voyage to try to intercept a Spanish galleon during the War of Jenkin's Ear. To find the Spanish, the group of ships has to go around Cape Horn, the very southern tip of South America. The ships get separated, with some of the men becoming stranded on a (mainly) uninhabited island off the coast of modern day Chile. The book focuses on the leadership issues that arise and the ways the men try to survive while fighting amongst themselves. They end up splitting up (violently) to try to get back to England or meet up with the rest of their ships. Spoiler alert - most of them die. There are a few that return to England to tell their story - all trying to craft a version that puts them in the best light.

This was an entertaining tale that also explores what happens to humans under extreme physical stress. Grann does a great job describing the setting and extreme weather conditions that the men found themselves in. Every time I read one of these disaster books, I just shake my head over and over. It is crazy to me that humans were willing to do these doomed voyages just to get money or glory for themselves and their country. There must be something in the human DNA that makes us want to explore and have adventure, and I suppose to conquer as well.

Original publication date: 2023
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 354 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library kindle book
Why I read this: love these shipwreck/disaster books

Abr 2, 11:43 am

>302 japaul22: Interesting review. I have tried to get into The Searcher but put it aside as it didn’t grab me. I have really liked her standalone books.

Abr 2, 11:48 am

>303 japaul22: Great review raising interesting questions. I’ve recently become interested in ship stories and just finished MadHouse at the End of the Earth. I’m trying to find a good book about the race to the South Pole? I found a few but can’t make up my mind.

Good question as to why men mad these dangerous sea voyages. From treading the Madouse one it seems many married just before embarking. Weird.

Abr 2, 11:55 am

It's been a very long time since I read it, but I loved The Last Place on Earth: Scott and Amundsen's Race to the South Pole by Roland Huntford. I'm supposedly distantly related to Roald Amundsen and I've always been interested in the South Pole journey.

Abr 2, 12:38 pm

>306 japaul22: Oh wow, The Last Place on Earth. That takes me back. PBS aired an adaptation of it in the mid-1980s and my husband and I were absolutely riveted. The cast includes several notable British actors. Sadly, it doesn't appear to be on any of the major streaming services.

Abr 2, 1:03 pm

>306 japaul22: I can only “read” audio and it’s not available. :(
The is his Race for the South Pole but I think this is Scott and Amunsden’s two diaries?

>307 lauralkeet: I so wish I could get this!

Abr 2, 1:29 pm

>302 japaul22: It's interesting how differently we experience the same books -- I loved this one. I recently listened to an interview with French and she says she's in the process of writing a third book set in Ardnakelty, this time centered on the people who are insiders (since Lena, Cal and Trey are all outsiders).

>303 japaul22: People who choose to go on these kinds of expeditions are fascinating and I enjoy following their exploits from the comforts of my safe life with indoor heating.

Abr 2, 2:14 pm

>303 japaul22: This does sound interesting. I've become interested in shipping stories after I discovered I have ancestors who were on the Lady Elgin when it went down off the coast of Lake Michigan near Wilmette in 1860. There's not much written about it, except in a few books and archives. My g-g-grandmother survived, but her brother was lost and my g-g-grandfather's sister was lost.

Not about disasters, but an interesting log of a ship's journey is Arthur Conan Doyle's Dangerous Work: Diary of an Arctic Adventure, in which he volunteered as ship's surgeon on a whaling expedition and kept the diary and made sketches along the way, including this on the cover of the book:

Abr 2, 3:03 pm

>307 lauralkeet: that story would make great TV - too bad it doesn't seem to be available. Making I'll do a reread sometime soon.

>308 kjuliff: Hmm. I think that is a different book, but I bet it's really interesting. I'm guessing it's the annotated source material that Huntford predominantly used to create The Last Place on Earth.

>309 RidgewayGirl: I'm glad you loved The Hunter. I bet I will still choose to read her next book - she's just such a good writer.

>310 kac522: that's interesting! We went on a vacation to the UP a few years ago and went to Whitefish Point on Lake Superior where there were dozens of shipwrecks.

A few other books I really liked involving shipwrecks:
In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides
In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick (though I remember having some reservations about the scholarliness of this one)
Island of the Lost by Jane Druett
Over the Edge of the World about Magellan by Laurence Bergreen

Abr 2, 3:21 pm

>311 japaul22: Jennifer, I just realized the series is available on Prime, "Freevee with ads". I have become so accustomed to watching TV programs and films without ads that I tend to avoid that option. And because we don't have a DVD player, I also always forget about DVDs.

Abr 2, 3:43 pm

Regarding shipwrecks and polar adventures, I really loved the audio of Alfred Lansing's Endurance. A fascinating story, wonderfully narrated by Simon Prebble.

Abr 2, 4:05 pm

>312 lauralkeet: Thanks, I’ve found it free on Prime - for Prime members. Also on Apple TV. Will be watching.

Abr 2, 4:06 pm

>311 japaul22: Thanks for the ships’ list. Have taken note.

Abr 2, 5:33 pm

Finally catching up here—you've got some cool reading, some of which is on my virtual pile and some just on the wish list, and some neither. (Boy, was that an anodyne sentence...) I hadn't heard of Chrysalis before you mentioned it, but that's right up my alley—noted.

And yeah, what Jerry said: if you do come to NYC again and want to do a meetup, give a yell.

Abr 2, 8:16 pm

>302 japaul22: I can see regarding French's two Cal books as slow. They're more like novels that happen to include a murder than modern mysteries. I remember telling my wife, "I'm past page 60 and haven't seen a corpse yet!" It seems a lot of modern writers have been told that they have to capture the reader by putting the murder in the first few pages. I did enjoy The Hunter, perhaps because I had a pretty good idea what to expect going in, but it satisfies a different taste bud from the one that gets tickled by In the Woods et seq.

Abr 2, 11:13 pm

>302 japaul22: I'm reading The Hunter right now and I have to say, I agree. I love her writing, but she's losing it, plotwise.

>303 japaul22: Another great review. Grann's getting some more attention this year, after Killers of the Flower Moon.

Abr 2, 11:21 pm

I don't think there's any actual shipwrecks, but non-fiction about sea voyages always brings up Two Years Before the Mast to me. I don't know why I read it (most of the summaries/blurbs I've seen were rather off-putting), but it's a _fantastic_ story about rounding Cape Horn (twice), trading up and down the California coast while it was under mostly Spanish rule, and living aboard a (small) wooden sailing ship while doing both.

Abr 2, 11:31 pm

>319 jjmcgaffey: That is a great book! I read it because I used to live in Dana Point, CA.

Abr 2, 11:35 pm

Yes, I live in CA (SF Bay Area) and found the connections amazing. Especially the final chapter where he comes back after San Francisco has expanded from a few shacks to a city...

Abr 3, 6:41 am

>312 lauralkeet: >314 kjuliff: I'm glad the tv version is available!

>313 katiekrug: I liked Endurance too - I must not have it tagged correctly in my catalog or I would have included it.

>316 lisapeet: If I ever come up to NYC without the kids or for a longer visit, I'll be sure to see who's around.

>317 Jim53: Yes, The Hunter is more like a novel than a mystery for sure. But I don't think my issues were because of the confused genre. I'll have to ponder that. I'm glad you liked it - many people have!

>318 rv1988: I'm glad I'm not the only one having issues with The Hunter! It was disappointing after really loving her other books.

>319 jjmcgaffey:, >320 janoorani24: My library has Two Years Before the Mast, so on the list it goes!

Abr 3, 9:32 am

>312 lauralkeet: >322 japaul22: i watched The Last Place on Earth last night and today. What a great series. I hadn’t realised how sneaky Scott was. What a sneak. As were the Brits who covered up after the fail was presented to the public.

Abr 3, 9:44 am

>323 kjuliff: It really formed the idea for me that it does seem to be a British mindset that if you try to make it easier to explore something (through common sense or smart planning) you're somehow cheating. I see that everywhere now in the exploration/war/conquest nonfiction that I read, even if it isn't explicitly pointed out.

Abr 3, 10:38 am

>324 japaul22: Yes, they are full of pomp and ceremony. They used to, and I’m sure that the upper-crust still do, think that they have a god-given right to win/lead.

What came out in the End of the World film series was the difference between the two teams - Norwegian and English - were chosen and constructed. Somehow, though there was a hierarchy in each, the Norwegian team seemed more democratic, and their individuals worked together more.

There’s also the British thing about praising the underdog. We have this in Australia too. And in America but Americans like winners more.

Abr 3, 10:40 am

>325 kjuliff: In America we like underdogs, too, until they win, and then we like to tear them down.

Abr 3, 11:18 am

>326 rocketjk: Same in Australia. We call it The Tall Poppy Syndrome. Chop ‘em down. That’s why so many of our actors go to Hollywood. It’s here in the US but nowhere near as bad as in Australia. Many Australians, when job-hunting here, have two resumés, one for American interviews and their old one from back home.

Australians who boast or highlight their achievements rarely get the job in Australia. They are considered “smart-arses”.

Editado: Abr 3, 12:38 pm

>325 kjuliff:, >326 rocketjk: It's funny that in this age of globalization we still have unique "country personalities", even amongst the English-speaking countries.

It's even true on a smaller level, as in within the U.S. there are still distinct regional differences.

Abr 3, 12:40 pm

>323 kjuliff: I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

Also: HORSES?! What were they thinking?

Abr 3, 3:11 pm

>329 lauralkeet: Yes, and horses in bad conditiion.

Editado: Abr 3, 4:31 pm

>324 japaul22:, >325 kjuliff: Recommending Explorers of the New Century by Magnus Mills, which is a comic account of a similar expedition. It skewers that pompous British upper-class amateurism brilliantly. Mills isn't upper-class - he's a bus driver.

>327 kjuliff: That intolerance of boasting is one of our good points!

Abr 3, 4:37 pm

>331 pamelad: I agree. But it gets you nowhere in New York City. Oh how I miss Australians self-derogatory humor!

Thanks for the Magnus Mills recommendation. I checked it out and it’s not available on audio which I need because of my low vision. I see there are other books by him and I’ll check them out.

Abr 3, 5:28 pm

>333 pamelad: Thanks. I’ve noted them. What about The Forensic Records Society

Editado: Abr 3, 5:42 pm

>334 kjuliff: I liked that one too. I've read 8 of Mills' books, and was least keen on A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked In, which is longer. His brevity is part of his charm.

Abr 3, 5:46 pm

>335 pamelad: Thanks, it’s always good to find a good writer, especially one off the beaten path.

Abr 4, 9:26 am

>333 pamelad: The Scheme for Full Employment was lots of fun. Happy to see it mentioned.

Abr 6, 10:39 pm

“There must be something in the human DNA that makes us want to explore and have adventure, and I suppose to conquer as well.”

This comment got me. Some built in insanity feature. Great review of The Wager and wonderful discussion afterwards.

Abr 11, 4:27 pm

I went to a concert of the US Army Field Band and Soldier's Chorus last night. Wonderful performance—made me think of you!

Abr 12, 12:02 pm

>339 labfs39: Fun! The Field Band is great - they also put on a really fun show.

Abr 12, 12:14 pm

#26 The Dress Diary by Kate Strasdin

I really enjoyed this nonfiction book. The author comes upon a "dress diary" - a journal with over 2000 small swatches of fabric that are described briefly. Sometimes the description says who wore the dress, the event it was worn for, or what the fabric was used for (usually women's dresses, sometimes a man's vest, or upholstery). Strasdin is able to figure out the owner of the book, Anne Sykes, from one of the entries. After finding her name, she begins to piece together tidbits about this Victorian-Era woman's life. British Anne Sykes spent time in Singapore and China with her husband. Her journal is filled with swatches of fabric that her friends and family wore.

In addition to try to illuminate Anne Sykes life, Strasdin uses the book to other aspects of life for Victorian women. She explores the textile industry, laundering/mending clothes, dyeing practices, friendship, living abroad, mourning rituals, etc.

The information is a bit light on depth - but it gave me a lot to think about and I was fascinated by the idea of this journal existing and being studied so many years later. I definitely recommend.

Original publication date: 2023
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 303 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased
Why I read this: sounded like my kind of nonfiction

Abr 12, 1:32 pm

#27 China Court by Rumer Godden

Did you know you can ruin a perfectly lovely, enjoyable book in the last 10 pages??? I found out you can.

China Court is the story of five generations of a family living in southwestern England. Their family home is named China Court because of the money their family made in trade with China in the 1800s. When Mrs. Quin, a family matriarch from the third generation, passes away, the family story begins to be explored. Adza and Eustace have eight children. "The brood" gives way to one son, his Irish wife and their children, one of who marries Ripsie (Mrs. Quin). Tracy, part of the fifth generation, returns for her grandmother's funeral. The writing swirls around these generations - Godden doesn't take the easy way out and write a dual (or quintuple!) timeline. Instead, stories give way to other stories up and down the timeline. There are enough cues to keep the reader pretty well-oriented. I was highly impressed by this. So much fun to read a novel with interesting characters and a masterfully managed plot and timeline.

And then, the end . . .
Terrible, really terrible. There's a strange stipulation in Mrs. Quin's will about Tracy marrying the man (Peter) who has been working a farm on China Court's land. At first it seems that Godden is going to somehow manage this into working in a somewhat acceptable manner. But then there is an out of place, violent, scene between Tracy and Peter that ends the book with a total acceptance of the violence - I guess as passion? I didn't get it. I was floored and upset.

This was so disappointing after I absolutely loved In This House of Brede and The Greengage Summer. Sad.

Original publication date: 1961
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 358 pages
Rating: 2? stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased for kindle
Why I read this: have been enjoying discovering this author

Abr 12, 2:09 pm

>342 japaul22: Thanks for the warning.

Editado: Abr 12, 2:59 pm

>341 japaul22: This sounds fascinating. I hope the library has it.

>342 japaul22: Wow. Just wow. I had heard good things about this book and I tried to read this a few years ago, but I couldn't get into it at the time. I'm planning to read In This House of Brede this month, and then thought I'd try to tackle China Court again. But you have convinced me to not even bother.

Abr 12, 3:20 pm

>343 kjuliff: >344 kac522: And looking at reviews both on LT and Goodreads, pretty much everyone felt as I did. Some rated higher and tried to ignore the ending. It's a shame, because I really enjoyed 95% of the book! Maybe this was more acceptable in the 1960s?

Editado: Abr 12, 3:48 pm

>345 japaul22: That is just too bad. I am so glad you mentioned it, because one bad thing can turn me off completely. I recently read The Quiet American by Graham Greene (1955), and one terrible, misogynistic phrase (about half-way through) just ruined the entire book for me.

I sometimes feel that some literature of the later 1950s & 60s (in particular) were attempting to be brutally honest in shocking ways, perhaps in protest to the idealized/sanitized fiction of the pre-WWII era. Sort of, if we can have an atomic bomb that obliterates everything, why hide anything? Maybe that's way over the top analysis, but it sometimes comes across that way to me.

Abr 13, 6:05 am

The Dress Diary sounds intriguing. China Court, not so much. Godden has been a bit hit or miss for me, although like you I really enjoyed In This House of Brede.

Editado: Abr 13, 6:48 am

>346 kac522: The Quiet American is the first and only book I will read by Graham Greene for the same reason. There are too many other great books and authors for me to spend time on him. It's not always the actual content or even that the women characters accept the violent treatment - it's the feel from the author that it's "just life", and fine, or that's what love/passion looks like, and something we should continue to accept that I absolutely cant stomach - especially from authors who I consider modern.

I think you're probably right about this being a conscious trend from authors in that 1950s/60s time range. Maybe if I were reading these then I'd feel differently, but I'm not interested in participating in 2024!

>347 lauralkeet: I think you would enjoy The Dress Diary, Laura.

Abr 13, 7:47 am

>347 lauralkeet: My library has it, so it's now on the list!

Editado: Abr 13, 11:24 am

>348 japaul22: I am so glad you had the same feeling as I did about The Quiet American. I read this for my book club, based on a suggestion by one lady who loves Graham Greene. If it hadn't been for book club, I wouldn't have finished it. We are a small group (5 retired women) and everybody else loved the book and NOBODY mentioned this. I was seething. After the woman who loves Greene left the group (we meet on zoom), I told the others my own reaction to the book (and read a specific passage); they hadn't picked up on it at all, but did understand once it was pointed out to them. Oh well. No more Graham Greene for me, either.

Abr 13, 1:54 pm

>350 kac522: that is interesting and I would find it upsetting too. There are too many great books to read to waste time on this author!

Abr 13, 2:15 pm

>341 japaul22: - This sounds so interesting to me (a quilter - I love fabric). And luckily, my library system has it. We're away right now, but I might try to get it when we get back.

>342 japaul22: - That's too bad about this book. I have In This House of Brede on my list for sometime this year. Maybe I'll go to the library and just read the last ten pages of China Court so I can see if I might give it a pass.

Abr 14, 7:56 pm

#28 The Easy Life in Kamsari by Shion Miura

This is a nice, short book about an 18 year old boy in Japan who is shipped off by his parents from his city life-style to try a job in forestry. The job is in a small community in the mountains and Yuki quickly realizes how different life is here. The people have different customs and beliefs, and Yuki has never spent much time in nature. The writing is particularly well-done when describing the setting.

Overall, though, I was sort of bored reading this and even did a little skimming to finish this short book. It has a very simplistic tone and had a bit of a YA feel. A nice enough book, but I won't be running out to read the second one.

Original publication date: 2021
Author’s nationality: Japanese
Original language: Japanese, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter
Length: 205 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: acquired for free on amazon's women in translation month
Why I read this: women in translation, on my kindle TBR pile

Abr 15, 7:02 am

>353 japaul22: I think I liked this more than you, Jennifer, perhaps because I approached it as YA from the get-go and so my expectations were different. I think the author did a lot of research for the book and has some interesting ideas, but never digs deep into them as she might have done if writing for adults. I also found it male-centric, although it didn't need to be. I have the sequel on my Kindle, but haven't read it.

Abr 15, 8:45 am

>354 labfs39: I didn't really have any idea it was supposed to be YA - was it? It certainly felt that way, but I wasn't sure if that was just because the main character was a young-acting 18. And, yes, definitely male-centric.

I did enjoy the nature descriptions and the cultural/societal observations, but not enough to really enjoy the book or continue with the sequel.

Abr 17, 5:10 pm

I've been meaning to read something by Rumer Godden, so glad to have it narrowed down a bit by knowing at least one to avoid!