March 31, 2021

The Vanishing Half

 


Fiction
2020 Penguin Audio
Read by Shayna Small
Finished on March 28, 2021
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect? 

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

I spent the past couple of weeks listening to The Vanishing Half, which my book club chose for our April discussion. It's been a few years since I read Brit Bennett's debut novel (The Mothers), which I greatly enjoyed, so I was excited to read her new book, which has garnered high praise from numerous readers and landed on several bestseller lists. (It was named a best book of the year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, NPR, Amazon and Goodreads, to name just a few.) And yet, once again, I'm in the minority. It's a moderately compelling (and timely) read, but I don't think it's outstanding or brilliant. Bennett's writing is fairly straightforward and I was quickly drawn into the narrative, but the abrupt timeline jumps and the flat characters left me unimpressed. I'm eager to hear how my book club liked this selection. With themes of race, identity, family secrets and sexuality, it should be a good discussion! 

March 29, 2021

Circe

 


Fiction - Mythology
2018 Little, Brown and Company
Finished on March 24, 2021
Rating: 5/5 (Outstanding)

Publisher's Blurb:

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child--not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power--the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man's world. 


In my typical fashion, I went into Circe completely blind. Not only did I not know the plot of Madeline Miller's outstanding tale, but I didn't have any knowledge of who Circe was in Greek mythology. I'm ashamed to admit that I have never read either The Iliad or The Odyssey and what little mythology I know, I learned in high school in my freshman English class. Suffice it to say, when I first started reading Circe, I spent a lot of time looking up background information on the various gods, goddesses, mortals and monsters that are mentioned in the book. I wish I had known ahead of time that the author had included a cast of characters at the back of the novel, but then I would have missed some entertaining videos about the Minotaur and Daedalus' Labyrinth. (Click here for one on TED-Ed.)

Trying to sort out the relationship between so many Titan and Olympian divinities, I found the beginning of Miller's book a little slow going, but once Circe was exiled to Aiaia, the pace picked up and I kept reading long into the night. Never could I have imagined a book about mythology could be such a page-turner! I enjoyed it so well that I'm tempted to give it a second read, this time on audio in order to hear the proper pronunciation of each name (something I struggled with the entire time I was reading the book).

I love it when a book not only entertains, but has me seeking out more about the subject matter. I'm inspired to not only read The Song of Achilles (Miller's debut novel), but also The Iliad and The Odyssey. If I were a high school English teacher, I would definitely use Miller's books as companion reads to Homer's epic tales.

Circe is an enchanting read and I'm thrilled to see that it is currently being adapted for a TV series by HBO Max.

Final Thoughts:

Don't let the Greek Mythology turn you off. This is one compelling read! Highly recommend. 

March 26, 2021

Looking Back - Out of the Blue

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.



Fiction
2000 Ballantine Books
Read in April 2000
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

At once heart-wrenching and funny, poignant and provocative, here is a rare novel about finding the courage to take a remarkable leap of faith. Smart, funny Anna Bolles, a born athlete and a dynamic teacher, figures God decided to have the last laugh when her life was tragically and irrevocably changed five years ago. Since then she has kept herself firmly grounded in the present with the door marked "future" shut. 

Anna's days are filled with the vibrancy of summer in New York City where she takes joy in the details, the sensual assault of an air-conditioned museum and a perfectly baked muffin. She relishes her role as an observer to the dramas played out around her--from the adolescent courtships of her private school students to the turbulent love affairs of friends and colleagues. Yet Anna never dares to open her heart, except to the father who has drifted from her and the mother who sustains her, until the one thing she didn't think could happen becomes a twist of fate that may just set her free. Until Joe Malone.

Joe Malone, pilot, businessman, amateur photographer, is a man who has everything except happiness. Though he's notorious for his short attention span, he sees in Anna a world of possibilities. Maybe Joe, a man who has only been skimming the surface of life, has finally found a perfect place to land. He thinks he wants a life with Anna no matter what and seems willing to risk everything to be with her. But can he trust himself enough to give their deepest dreams the chance to flourish?

Through laughter and tears, from the depths of heartbreak to the pinnacle of joy, Sally Mandel never fails to remind readers of the things that matter most in life. Now she has written her most dazzling novel yet--a very special story about two unique people whose love comes from seemingly out of the blue.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Great fluff! I couldn't put it down. Romance. Humorous. Didn't cry, but got choked up. Not great literature, but entertaining. A perfect beach read. Engrossing, yet light. This author is one that I'll keep my eye on. She's written four other books, but they're all out of print.

My Current Thoughts: 

This isn't the sort of book I'd read now, but I obviously enjoyed it quite a lot 20 years ago. Did I go on to read more by Mandel? Nope.

March 19, 2021

Looking Back - Diary of a Provincial Lady

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.



Fiction
1999 Prion Books (first published in 1930)
Read in April 2000
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

When Diary of a Provincial Lady was first published in 1930, critics on both sides of the Atlantic greeted it with enthusiasm. This charming, delightful and extremely funny book about daily life in a frugal English household was named by booksellers as the out-of-print novel most deserving of republication. 

This is a gently self-effacing, dry-witted tale of a long-suffering and disaster-prone Devon lady of the 1930s. A story of provincial social pretensions and the daily inanities of domestic life to rival George Grossmith's Diary of a Nobody.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

This was a selection for my online book group and while I thought there were many funny comments or incidents, I thought the book was rather dull. I skimmed the last dozen pages or so, just to be done with it. Tedious.

My Current Thoughts:

My only memory of this book is feeling badly that I didn't enjoy it as much as my online book group friends. 


March 16, 2021

Leave the Grave Green

 



Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James Series #3
Mystery
1995 Scribner
Finished on March 12, 2021
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

When Connor Swann, the dissolute son-in-law of renowned and influential Sir Gerald and Dame Caroline Asherton, is found floating in a Thames River lock, the circumstances eerily recall a strangely similar tragedy. Twenty years ago, the Ashertons' young son, Matthew, a musical prodigy, drowned in a swollen stream while in the company of his sister Julia -- Connor Swann's wife. 

Police Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Sergeant Gemma James quickly discover that Connor's death was no accident, and that nothing in the Asherton family is as it seems. Connor, though estranged from Julia for more than a year, still lives in her London apartment, where his exploits with women and gambling suggest plenty of motives. The Ashertons are far more attached to Connor than to their own daughter, and these are only the first of the secrets that haunt the suspects. New lies cover older lies, as Kincaid finds himself dangerously drawn to Julia Swann, and Gemma must confront her own troubling feelings for Kincaid.

Another entertaining installment in Deborah Crombie's Kincaid/James series. I was kept guessing and didn't solve the mystery before Duncan and Gemma. I continue to enjoy the British setting and the slowly evolving relationship between the two detectives.

March 14, 2021

A Quiet Life in the Country

 


Lady Hardcastle Mysteries #1
Mystery
2016 Brillance Audio
Read by Elizabeth Knowelden
Finished on March 9, 2021
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Lady Emily Hardcastle is an eccentric widow with a secret past. Florence Armstrong, her maid and confidante, is an expert in martial arts. The year is 1908 and they’ve just moved from London to the country, hoping for a quiet life.

But it is not long before Lady Hardcastle is forced out of her self-imposed retirement. There’s a dead body in the woods, and the police are on the wrong scent. Lady Hardcastle makes some enquiries of her own, and it seems she knows a surprising amount about crime investigation…

As Lady Hardcastle and Flo delve deeper into rural rivalries and resentment, they uncover a web of intrigue that extends far beyond the village. With almost no one free from suspicion, they can be certain of only one fact: there is no such thing as a quiet life in the country.

A Quiet Life in the Country is a delightful book and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Elizabeth Knowelden's performance of this cozy mystery. It was an especially nice change of pace after the heavier books I've recently read.

The mystery (or mysteries, as there are actually two murders to solve) wasn't terribly interesting, but I loved the bantering and exchange of dry wit between Lady Hardcastle and Flo, which is very much like my husband's sense of humor. I chuckled out loud on more than one occasion and had I read the print edition rather than the audio, I'm certain I'd have several passages to share. I didn't waste any time downloading the second installment and look forward to more of the duo's antics, as well as (hopefully) the return of a couple of the supporting characters. 

Highly recommend.

March 13, 2021

Mushroom Lasagna


Oh, yum! Another delicious recipe by Smitten Kitchen (adapted from Ina Garten). I've made this dish a couple of times and it's a huge hit with my family; even my meat-loving husband says it's a winner. If you wind up with any leftovers, they freeze very well.

Salt
Olive Oil
12 pieces of dried lasagna noodles
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups of hot milk 
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 lbs. mushrooms (any combination of cremini, portobello, brown or baby white), sliced
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup white wine (my addition)
1 cup freshly grated parmesan


Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F).

Prepare noodles: Cook according to package instructions (typically around 10 minutes). Drain and set aside. 

Make béchamel: While the noodles are cooking, melt 8 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and cook for one minute over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon. Pour in the hot milk, a little at a time at first and whisk until combined. Once you’ve added half of it, you can add the second half all at once, along with 2 teaspoons kosher salt, the pepper, and nutmeg. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare onions & mushrooms: Clean mushrooms and discard stems. Slice mushrooms 1/4-inch thick. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter over medium in a large sauté pan. Cook the onions until tender, about 3 minutes. Add half of the mushrooms, along with a couple pinches of salt, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they are tender and release some of their juices, tossing to make sure they cook evenly. Set aside and repeat with additional oil and butter, and remaining mushrooms. Return all the mushrooms to the pan and add the white wine. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Assemble lasagna: Spread some of the sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Arrange a layer of noodles on top, then more sauce (about 1/4 of what remains), 1/3 of the mushrooms and 1/4 cup grated parmesan. Repeat two more times then top with a final layer of noodles, your remaining sauce and last 1/4 cup of parmesan.

Bake: For 45 minutes, or until top is browned and the sauce is bubbly. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving. 

To freeze for future use, allow it to cool completely and wrap two to three times in plastic wrap before freezing.

Click on the link in my sidebar for more of my favorite recipes. 

Please visit The Intrepid Reader for Weekend Cooking.

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March 12, 2021

Looking Back - Rules of the Wild

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.



Fiction
1999 Vintage (first published in 1998)
Read in April 2000
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

A mesmerizing novel of love and nostalgia set in the vast spaces of contemporary East Africa.

Romantic, often resonantly ironic, moving and wise, Rules of the Wild transports us to a landscape of unsurpassed beauty even as it gives us a sharp-eyed portrait of a closely knit tribe of cultural outsiders: the expatriates living in Kenya today. Challenged by race, by class, and by a longing for home, here are "safari boys" and samaritans, reporters bent on their own fame, travelers who care deeply about elephants but not at all about the people of Africa. They all know each other. They meet at dinner parties, they sleep with each other, they argue about politics and the best way to negotiate their existence in a place where they don't really belong.

At the center is Esmé, a beautiful young woman of dazzling ironies and introspections, who tells us her story in a voice both passionate and self-deprecating. Against a paradoxical backdrop of limitless physical freedom and escalating civil unrest, Esmé struggles to make sense of her own place in Africa and of her feelings for the two men there whom she loves--Adam, a second-generation Kenyan who is the first to show her the wonders of her adopted land, and Hunter, a British journalist sickened by its horrors.

Rules of the Wild evokes the worlds of Isak Dinesen, Beryl Markham, and Ernest Hemingway. It explores unforgettably our infinite desire for a perfect elsewhere, for love and a place to call home. It is an astonishing literary debut.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Pretty good. Held my interest enough to keep me reading late into the night. I loved the passages that describe the landscape and wildlife. I didn't care too much for the immature relationships between several of the characters, but I could overlook those for the better parts of the book. 

There is no sky as big as this one anywhere else in the world. It hangs over you, like some kind of gigantic umbrella, and takes your breath away. You are flattened between the immensity of the air above you and the solid ground. It's all around you, 360 degrees: sky and earth, one the aerial reflection of the other. The horizon here is no longer a flat line, but an endless circle which makes your head spin.

My Current Thoughts: 

Rereading my journal notes, it sounds like I might have enjoyed this better if it had been nonfiction rather than a novel. 

March 11, 2021

Beartown

 



Fiction
2018 Washington Square Press (first published in 2016)
Finished on March 7, 2021
Rating: 5/5 (Outstanding)

Publisher's Blurb:

The bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever-encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

A Gentleman in Moscow. All the Light We Cannot See. State of Wonder. City of Thieves. Cutting for Stone. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. The Help. The Sparrow. The Book Thief. A Prayer for Owen Meany. Beach Music. Plainsong. What do all of these books have in common with Beartown? They are simply a few of my all-time favorite literary novels, most of which took several chapters before I became fully invested in their stories. They are the sort of books that are filled with memorable characters and plots that do more than just entertain. I was not expecting to add Beartown to this collection of favorites, but I have!

I was born in Ontario, Canada and yet I have never been to a hockey game, nor have I watched it on TV. Even when the U.S. team beat the Soviet Union, winning the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics, I only saw the highlights. So when I first heard that Beartown was about a hockey team, I wasn't in the least bit interested, even though I had read and loved A Man Called Ove. I also read and enjoyed My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, but I wasn't convinced I would feel the same about Beartown

When I found out about the HBO series based on this book, I decided it was time to give it a try so I could read it before watching the show. Reading other reviews and comments, I knew it would take a while to get interested in the story, so I was pleased that it only took me a few chapters before I got a handle on all the characters (and there are A LOT!) and their relationships with one another. Thankfully, I wasn't required to suffer through pages of detailed explanations of the rules and regulations of hockey. Quite honestly, Beartown could be about a small town football, basketball or baseball team (although I would have eagerly jumped on a book about baseball), since the focus is less on the game and more on the dynamics of the team and coaching staff, as well as the members of the community. 

In any case, I loved the book and I'm so glad I stuck with it through those early chapters. There are so many great characters, many of whom I came to love (and worry about), especially Maya, Ana, Amat, Benji and Bobo. Backman's narrative is linear with numerous points of view and some readers might find this constant shifting of perspectives jarring or clunky, but I appreciated getting to follow each of the main characters' feelings and reactions, which gives the book a more intimate experience than it might have with just one or two points of view. 

So there you go. I have my second 5-star rating for 2021. I love to read and enjoy light and humorous books, as well as spellbinding thrillers and mysteries, but it is such a joy to read a provocative work of contemporary fiction. 

Highly recommend!

Kirkus Reviews says it best:
Backman is a masterful writer, his characters familiar yet distinct, flawed yet heroic.... There are scenes that bring tears, scenes of gut-wrenching despair, and moments of sly humor.... This is about more than youth sports; it's part coming-of-age novel, part study of moral failure, and finally a chronicle of groupthink in which an unlikely hero steps forward to save more than one person from self-destruction. A thoroughly empathetic examination of the fragile human spirit, Backman's latest will resonate a long time. 

March 9, 2021

Coming Soon!

 


I loved both A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility, so I'm super excited about this upcoming release by Amor Towles. Have you read his novels? Click on the titles to read my reviews. 

Publisher's Blurb:

The bestselling author of A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility and master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction returns with a stylish and propulsive novel set in 1950s America.

In June, 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the work farm where he has just served a year for involuntary manslaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett’s intention is to pick up his eight-year-old brother and head west where they can start their lives anew. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Together, they have hatched an altogether different plan for Emmett’s future.

Spanning just ten days and told from multiple points of view, Towles’s third novel will satisfy fans of his multi-layered literary styling while providing them an array of new and richly imagined settings, characters, and themes.

Publication date: October 5, 2021

March 8, 2021

Nineteen Minutes

 


Fiction
2013 Pocket Books (first published in 2007)
Finished on March 1, 2021
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good!)

Publisher's Blurb:

Jodi Picoult, bestselling author of My Sister's Keeper and Small Great Things pens her most riveting book yet, with a startling and poignant story about the devastating aftermath of a small-town tragedy.

Sterling is an ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens--until the day its complacency is shattered by a school shooting. Josie Cormier, the daughter of the judge sitting on the case, should be the state's best witness, but she can't remember what happened before her very own eyes--or can she? As the trial progresses, fault lines between the high school and the adult community begin to show--destroying the closest of friendships and families. Nineteen Minutes asks what it means to be different in our society, who has the right to judge someone else, and whether anyone is ever really who they seem to be.

She did it again! Great book!

I am trying to read more books from my shelves of backlist titles and Nineteen Minutes caught my eye. I have read almost all of Jodi Picoult's books, but somehow never got around to this one.  In spite of the length (the mass market edition is over 600 pages), I finished it in less than a week. I was completely engrossed in the story and didn't want to stop reading at the end of the day.  Picoult is a great storyteller and her characters are so well drawn that I felt like I knew them, but there were times when I questioned her portrayal of the students. I never encountered such vicious bullying when I was in high school, but apparently things have gotten much worse over time, as reflected in the numerous school shootings across our country. This provocative work doesn't ask the question "Why?" but rather shows exactly what led to the final breakdown in the shooter's mind. 

Nineteen Minutes is an unsettling read and a powerful examination of cliques and bullying. What can we as a society do to help our children navigate the cruelties in this world without resorting to violence? How do we recognize the signs of a troubled individual? How to we teach children to be kinder to one another? The answers might seem obvious, but there is still a disconnect and we continue to fail our children. 

Aware that Picoult always has a plot twist, I looked for clues as I read and was able to correctly predict the final outcome. The book isn't intended to be a mystery, so I wasn't disappointed that the denouement was a little obvious. 

Highly recommend.

Click on any title to read my review of other books by Jodi Picoult.



Sing You Home (4.5/5)


Change of Heart (4.75/5)






March 6, 2021

The Underground Railroad

 



Fiction
2016 Random House Audio
Read by Bahni Turpin
Finished on March 1, 2021
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. 

Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

I have now read two novels written by Colson Whitehead and I don't think I'll read any more. My book group chose The Underground Railroad for our March discussion and I decided to listen to the audio since it's read by the wonderful Bahni Turpin. Turpin's narration is fine, but I never felt like I knew Cora or any of the other characters, for that matter. It took me a long time to get interested in Cora's story, but once I did there would suddenly be the introduction of new characters or locations, which was jarring and confusing. I was never fully engrossed in the book and often found my mind wandering as I walked while listening to the audio. 

Judging from the high ratings by my friends on Goodreads, I am undoubtedly in the minority, although a few readers have shared my thoughts, claiming the book lacks emotion, is distant and impersonal. Will I watch the ten-episode limited series when it hits Amazon Prime on May 14th? Possibly. Maybe this will be one of those rare instances when the movie is better than the book.

Click here for my review of The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead.

March 5, 2021

Looking Back - Evening News

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.



Fiction
2000 Back Bay Books (first published in 1999)
Read in March 2000
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Nine year-old Teddy is playing next door with his best friend when Eric pulls out his father's handgun and hands it to Teddy. The telephone rings; the gun goes off, shooting -- and killing -- Teddy's two-year-old half sister Trina, who was playing in a wading pool in the yard outside, with Giselle, their mother, by her side. 

Thus begins Marly Swick's second novel after the highly acclaimed Paper Wings. As with her previous work, Swick resolutely travels the domestic landscape, detailing delicately and truthfully the effect of Trina's death on the unstable triangle of the family left behind. Each member finds their bonds of love and loyalty tested, and each is resilient in the face of their loss, but for different -- perhaps too different -- reasons: Giselle must get Teddy through the crisis, but Dan, his stepfather, having just lost his daughter, has no such responsibility. 

Told alternately from the point of view of Giselle and Teddy himself, Evening News is a beautifully accomplished novel about resilience in the face of loss -- and about the irrevocable damage that both the loss and the resilience can inflict.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Quick-paced novel. Sad topic, however. The story is set in Los Angeles, but moves to Lincoln, Nebraska midway through. Swick is a Lincolnite and teaches at UNL. Lots of references to real locations in Nebraska, as well as L.A. 

My Current Thoughts:

I always enjoy reading books set in familiar locations and this one was no exception. I remember the heaviness of the novel and don't care to read it again. 

March 2, 2021

A Month in Summary - February 2021

Little Whale Cove
Depoe Bay, Oregon
February 2021


February usually feels like a super short month, but this year it didn't feel any different than the past 12 months. Our weeks are pretty much the same as they've been: my husband's physical therapy twice a week, my weekly get-together with friends to play Mah Jong (masked and outside) and Zoom book club. We did both have dental appointments and annual physicals for the first time in a year, and I was a little nervous about the COVID risk of those, but once there, I felt all precautions were observed and felt very safe. My mom has had her first vaccination, but Rod and I are still waiting for ours. I'm trying to be patient, but I'm so ready to start traveling again! 

I had another good month of reading, finishing seven books and enjoying all but one (which I would have given up on, but it was my book club's selection). I read two mysteries (one was a reread), one nonfiction, one ebook, one ARC, one YA, and one audio. My favorite was Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin. 



Books Read (click on the title for my review):

A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie (4/5)

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff (1/5)

The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar (3/5)

Stars of Alabama by Sean Dietrich (3/5)

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (4.5/5)

All Shall Be Well by Deborah Crombie (3/5)

If I Stay by Gayle Forman (4/5)


Movies & TV Series:


Lupin - Clever! I wasn't sure about this show until the second episode; then I was hooked!


River - Oh my goodness. This is simply one of the best detective series we have ever watched. What a shame that it's only one season. Unforgettable!


The Bay - We finished this series and enjoyed it, but I wouldn't say that it's one I loved. 


Nomadland - Not bad, but the book was better. Frances McDormand was, as always, outstanding.


Perry Mason - After five episodes, I still can't decide if I like this show. 

Puzzlemania:




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Click here for my blogiversary post.


Click here for links to my favorite humorous books.

Stay safe and keep wearing your masks, my friends. The rain is gone (for now), the sun is shining, and I see the light at the end of this very long tunnel!