Thursday, December 30, 2021

2021: YEAR IN REVIEW!

 

I can't believe we've reached the end of the year.  I think this may be the only month this year that I actually read all my goal books!  Next year, one of my plans is to take my goal books at the beginning of each month and put them on my bedside table (or on an easily accessible shelf) so I won't forget the plan.  My goal this year was to read 52 books - seemed like an easy one-per-month number.  I ended up reading 84.  I didn't feel like it was too many or that I was stressed or reading all the time.  But, I think that I pass up some of my longer books on the shelf because it seems like it will bring my reading total down!  That, obviously, is silly.  So, in 2022, I am going to set a round reading target of 50 books - but with the goal of tackling some of the longer titles on my to-read list, such as Cloud Cuckoo Land  and that most recent Ken Follet novel.  I vow not to let the numbers interfere with my reading enjoyment!


I have set up a few to-read shelves around the house with my priority books for 2022.  Most of these are books I bought during 2021.  But, I have so many books that have languished on my shelves for over a decade.  Another one of my goals for the year is to go through these - either pick them as books to read, or make a final decision that I probably won't ever get to a point where I'm interested in reading them anymore, and give them away.  While it's nice in some sense to look at full shelves, I don't necessarily like to look at shelves full of books I just feel kind of blah about.  I also always wonder whether I should be more methodical about my reading - or keep doing it the way I usually do, which is pick up what looks good when it looks good, and request books when I like, and buy other things when they look good.  I can see the value in both approaches for my own enjoyment of my books...so I assume I will continue to do some type of hybrid where I make a plan, abandon it, read some random books, and repeat throughout the year!

Goal Books for December
  1. That Summer by Jennifer Weiner (Fiction/Borrowed)
  2. The Three Mothers by Anna Malaika Tubbs (Non-Fiction/Library)
  3. Dexter is Dead by Jeff Lindsay (Fiction/Library)
  4. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave (Mystery/Library)
Books Read in December:
  1. That Summer by Jennifer Weiner (Fiction/Borrowed)
  2. The Three Mothers by Anna Malaika Tubbs (Non-Fiction/Library)
  3. Dexter is Dead by Jeff Lindsay (Fiction/Library)
  4. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave (Mystery/Library)
  5. The Authenticity Project by Claire Pooley (Fiction)
  6. Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead (Fiction/Library)
  7. Among the Mad by Jaqueline Winspear (Mystery/Library)
  8. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (Fiction/Shelves)
  9. Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim (Romance/Library)
Goal Books for January....not quite sure yet, but I'll try for these:
  1. How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith (Non-Fiction/Book Club/Library)
  2. The Guncle by Steven Rowley (Fiction/Shelves)
  3. Facing the Mountain by Daniel James Brown (Non-Fiction/Shelves)
  4. The Sweeney Sisters by Lian Dolan (Fiction/Shelves)
Happy Reading!

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

November Review & Goals for December

 



Goals Books for November

  1. Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi (Fiction/Library for Book Club)
  2. Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim (Fiction/Library)
  3. That Summer by Jennifer Weiner (Fiction/Borrowed)
  4. Dexter is Dead by Jeff Lindsay (Fiction/Library)
Books Actually Read in November
  1. Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi (Fiction/Library for Book Club)
  2. Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim (Fiction/Library)
  3. The Heart Principle by Helen Huong (Fiction/Romance/On Shelves)
  4. A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers (Fiction/On Shelves)
  5. A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny (Mystery/Library)
  6. Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal (Fiction/Library)
Goal Books for December
  1. That Summer by Jennifer Weiner (Fiction/Borrowed)
  2. The Three Mothers by Anna Malaika Tubbs (Non-Fiction/Library)
  3. Dexter is Dead by Jeff Lindsay (Fiction/Library)
  4. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave (Mystery/Library)
Looking forward to some time off from work to curl up with some bigger books over the holidays!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Books from October and Goals for November!

 


October brought with it a big rain storm, which was perfect for getting me into a cozy reading mood.  A large stack of holds also came in for me at the library, and while that can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, I'm trying to allow myself to just take my time with the books and not feel myself getting too frenetic about finishing everything as soon as possible!  Overall, October was a nice reading month for me and I hope is helping me set a steady pace through the end of the year.

Goals for October:

  1. Range by David Epstein (Non-Fiction/Shelf for Book Club)
  2. After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Romance/Shelf)
  3. The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris (Fiction/Library)
  4. Members Only by Sameer Pandya (Fiction/Borrowed)

Books Read in October:

  1. Range by David Epstein (Non-Fiction/Shelf for Book Club)
  2. After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Romance/Shelf)
  3. Still Life by Louise Penny (Mystery/Library)
  4. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Fiction/Shelf)
  5. Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan (Fiction/Library)
  6. Rules for Visiting by Jessica Frances Kane (Fiction/Library)
  7. The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling (Romance/Borrowed)
Goals Books for November
  1. Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi (Fiction/Library for Book Club)
  2. Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop (Fiction/Library)
  3. That Summer by Jennifer Weiner (Fiction/Borrowed)
  4. Dexter is Dead by Jeff Lindsay (Fiction/Library)
Happy Reading!

Friday, October 1, 2021

September Review and Goals for October!

 


Despite the start of fall, it still feels very warm and dry.  It is getting darker earlier which puts me in the mood for curling up with a book - and as we get closer to Halloween, I am putting a few mysteries on my to-read list.  My goal books for September were: 

  1. Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz (Fiction/Library)
  2. Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michaeleen Doucleff (Nonfiction/Book Club)
  3. Range by David Epstein (Non-Fiction/Shelf for Book Club)
  4. Fiction book from my shelves at home!
The books I actually read were:
  1. Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz (Fiction/Library)
  2. Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michaeleen Doucleff (Nonfiction/Book Club)
  3. The Maidens by Alex Michaelides (Fiction/Shelves at Home)
  4. While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory (Romance/Shelves at Home)
  5. Hell of a Book by Jason Mott (Fiction/Library/Book Club)
  6. Surviving the White Gaze by Rebecca Carroll (Memoir/Library)
Goals for October:
  1. Range by David Epstein (Non-Fiction/Shelf for Book Club)
  2. After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Romance/Shelf)
  3. The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris (Fiction/Library)
  4. Members Only by Sameer Pandya (Fiction/Borrowed)
Happy Reading!!

Thursday, September 2, 2021

August Review and Goals for September!

 


August is typically a great reading month for me - not only is it the end of summer vacation for the kids - which often means a little vacation - it's also my birthday month, so I typically take some extra time for myself to do the things I love.  Unfortunately, this August, I had a big work deadline and found myself distracted having to spend time on that, and then often so tired in the evenings that I wasn't able to focus on reading anything.  To this point, while I rarely watch television, I actually watched two short series in August (White Lotus and The Chair) - which was nice shared experience with my husband.  I did manage to get through about half-way of a few books, so I suppose that gives me a bit of a head start on September!  My goal books for August were:

  1. Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (Fiction/Book Club)
  2. Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michaeleen Doucleff (Nonfiction/Book Club)
  3. Dear Ann by Bobbie Ann Mason (Fiction/Loaner)
  4. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Fiction/Library)
The books I actually read in August were:
  1. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Fiction/Library)
  2. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry (Fiction/Shelf)
  3. How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps  by Cherie Jones (Fiction/Library)
  4. Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Fiction/Loaner from my kid!)
Goals for September:
  1. Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz (Fiction/Library)
  2. Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michaeleen Doucleff (Nonfiction/Book Club)
  3. Range by David Epstein (Non-Fiction/Shelf for Book Club)
  4. Fiction book from my shelves at home!
I also want to get my to-read shelf in order for the fall/winter.  Moving away from the beach reads to the cozy mysteries!

~ Happy Reading!! ~

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Update from July and Goals for August!

 


I can't believe we're already in August.  The summer is nearly over (as marked by the start of school, no longer by Labor Day!) and I don't feel like I had the relaxing chalk-full of reading summer that I always want.  But, I have still managed to get some good reads in.  One thing I am also working on is (slowly) going through the books on my shelves and making relatively quick decisions about which ones I'm just not interested in and moving on!  On a positive #goals note, I reached my Goodreads goal of 52 books this month!  I still think 4 books a month is a good goal...so I'll hope to squeeze in 20 more before the year ends!

Here were my goal books for July:

  1. Arsenic & Adobo by Mia Manansala (Fiction/Book Club)
  2. Dear Ann by Bobbie Ann Mason (Fiction/Loaner)
  3. The Arm by Jeff Passan (Non-Fiction/My Bookshelf)
  4. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz (Mystery/Library)
Here's what I actually read in July:
  1. Arsenic & Adobo by Mia Manansala (Fiction/Book Club)
  2. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz (Mystery/Library)
  3. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (Fiction/Library)
  4. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes (Fiction/Library)
  5. One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (Fiction/Shelves)
  6. Where the Grass is Green and the Girls are Pretty by Lauren Weisberger (Fiction/Loaner)
Here are my goal books for August:
  1. Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (Fiction/Book Club)
  2. Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michaeleen Doucleff (Nonfiction/Book Club)
  3. Dear Ann by Bobbie Ann Mason (Fiction/Loaner)
  4. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Fiction/Library)
Happy End-of-Summer Reading!

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Update from June & Goals for July!

 


I can't believe one month of my summer reading is over!  I made the mistake again this month of not referring to my goals, and in addition to a few other things, that made me feel like my reading this month was very haphazard.  Here were my goal books for June:

  1. Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman (Memoir/Book Club)
  2. The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konakova (Memoir/Book Club)
  3. Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Fiction)
  4. This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel (Fiction/My Bookshelf)
  5. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn (Fiction/Loaner)

Here are the books I actually got through in June: 
  1. Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman (Memoir/Book Club)
  2. Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Fiction)
  3. Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger (Fiction)
  4. The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner (Fiction)
  5. This Isn't What it Looks Like by Psuedonymous Bosch (Children's Lit/Fiction)

My Goal books for July:
  1. Arsenic & Adobo by Mia Manansala (Fiction/Book Club)
  2. Dear Ann by Bobbie Ann Mason (Fiction/Loaner)
  3. The Arm by Jeff Passan (Non-Fiction/My Bookshelf)
  4. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz (Mystery/Library)

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Update from May & Goals for June!

 

I felt like May was a slow reading month.  I'm not quite sure why - I think I felt more tired and had trouble focusing in the evenings.  Plus, I did get sucked in by a few episodes of Bosch.  Here were my goals for May (I completed the ones in bold, but not the one that should have been the easiest read!)

  1. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei (Graphic Novel/Book Club)
  2. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (Memoir/Book Club)
  3. One book that has been loaned to me!
  4. One book from my own bookshelves!
And here's what I ended up managing to get through:

  1. All Adults Here by Emma Straub (Fiction/Loaner)
  2. Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour (Fiction/Library)
  3. Writers & Lovers by Lily King (Fiction/Library)
  4. Dexter's Final Cut by Jeff Lindsay (Fiction/Library)
  5. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (Memoir/Library)
  6. The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine (Fiction/My bookshelf)

Goals for June:
  1. Orthodox by Deborah Feldman (Memoir/Book Club)
  2. The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konakova (Memoir/Book Club)
  3. Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Fiction)
  4. This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel (Fiction/My Bookshelf)
  5. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn (Fiction/Loaner)
I anticipate that June will be a rough month for work.  But, I am committed to keeping up on exercise (if on the treadmill does mean reading time), and sometimes reading does increase due to procrastination.  But, I also intend to prioritize sleep this month so that my work won't suffer, so that could affect the reading...we shall see how the patters emerge!

Friday, April 30, 2021

April Review and Goals for May

 

A book exchange at my kids' school this week allowed me the time to go through our bookshelves.  I purged a bit and reorganized a bit, but mostly I noted that I have so many books that have been on my shelves for years that I have never read.  It renewed my goal to get through them this year - not all of them, but many of them.  I know I will decide after a few chapters to set some to the side, but I just want to make some decisions and start looking at empty space or new books up there!  

April was a good reading month for me.  I'm not quite sure what to attribute that to - I did spend a little more time on the treadmill (obviously I don't go very fast since I'm able to read and walk/job at the same time), and maybe I was better at reading while waiting for my kids at their various practices, rather than just scrolling mindlessly through my phone!  Whatever the case, I had some fun ones in there.  I read all my goal books for April, and added six more.

Goals for April:

  1. The Adventure Gap by James Mills (Non-Fiction/Book Club)
  2. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Fiction)
  3. All God's Children by Fox Butterfield
  4. The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi (Fiction)
Books read in April:
  1. The Adventure Gap by James Mills (Non-Fiction/Book Club) 
  2. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Fiction/Library)
  3. All God's Children by Fox Butterfield (Book Club)
  4. The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi (Fiction/Library)
  5. The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs (Fiction/Library)
  6. Outlawed by Anna North (Fiction/Library)
  7. The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger (Fiction/My Shelves)
  8. The Bride Test by Helen Hoang (Romance/Library)
  9. His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie (Fiction/Library)
  10. Girls with Bright Futures by Tracy Tobmeier & Wendy Katzman (Fiction/Loaned to Me)
Goals for May:
  1. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei (Graphic Novel/Book Club)
  2. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (Memoir)
  3. One book that has been loaned to me!
  4. One book from my own bookshelves!
I know I'm bound to find an amazing book that has just been sitting unread on my shelves for decades...can't wait to see what it is!

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

March Review & Goals for April


My goal books for March were:
  1. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (Fiction/Book Club)
  2. The Adventure Gap by James Mills (Non-Fiction/Book Club)
  3. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (Mystery)
  4. Friends & Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan (Fiction)

I didn't get to The Adventure Gap, as it is actually a book club pick for the first week of April, so hopefully I will read it this weekend!

In March, my reading felt a bit haphazard.  I had been trying to focus on one book at a time to see if that helped me focus, or get more into a given book at a given time.  I always think that I read multiple books at a time because I never know what mood I'll be in when I feel like reading - I might want a fiction book, I might want a mystery...but this month I realized that it's not so much about mood as about convenience.  I focused on one book, but then found myself running out the door and couldn't find that book so I just grabbed another, or I decided to read in the bath, but didn't want to go downstairs to grab a book and just took the one on the bedside table.  And, so I found myself in the middle of about 10 different books before I knew it!  Some happy medium must be discovered!

The books I finished in March were:
  1. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (Fiction/Book Club/My Shelves)
  2. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (Mystery/Library)
  3. Friends & Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan (Fiction/Library)
  4. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Fiction/Library)
  5. Eat a Peach by David Chang (Memoir/Library)
  6. The Roommate by Rosie Danan (Romance/Library)

On my to-read list for April (I can't believe we're in April!).  

  1. The Adventure Gap by James Mills (Non-Fiction/Book Club)
  2. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Fiction)
  3. All God's Children by Fox Butterfield
  4. The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi (Fiction)
I have so many books from the library piled up on my entry table, I need to stop the requests from coming in and spend time catching up!  Happy Reading!

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

February Review & Goals for March


 My goal books for February were:

  1. A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet (Fiction/Book Club)
  2. MediocreThe Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo
  3. The Last Mrs. Parrish (Mystery)
  4. Hamnet (Fiction)

I realize as I look back now, that I never reviewed these goals during the month and completely forgot that I planned to read The Last Mrs. Parrish - so needless to say, I didn't read that.  My completed books for February were:

  1. A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet (Fiction/Book Club)
  2. MediocreThe Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo (Non-Fiction/Book Club)
  3. Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell  (Fiction)
  4. Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger (Fiction)
  5. One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London (Fiction/Romance)
  6. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab (Fiction)
  7. Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman (Fiction)
My goal books for March are:
  1. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (Fiction/Book Club)
  2. The Adventure Gap by James Mills (Non-Fiction/Book Club)
  3. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (Mystery)
  4. Friends & Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan (Fiction)
Happy Reading!
    

Sunday, January 31, 2021

January Review & Goals for February


January ended up being a pretty good reading month for me.  I have to admit I did prioritize reading in a way that I haven't in quite awhile, and unfortunately, will cause a few other things to catch up with me in February.  But, it was fun while it lasted.  Here are the books I managed to finish:
  1. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (Mystery)
  2. You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria (Romance)
  3. Why Fish Don't Exist by Lulu Miller (Non-Fiction/Biography/Memoir)
  4. Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson (Juvenile Fiction)
  5. The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes (Fiction)
  6. The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans (Short Stories)
  7. Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker (Non-Fiction)
  8. American Dirt by Jeanine Cumins (Fiction)
  9. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (Romance)
  10. The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle (Mystery/Thriller)
  11. Real Life by Brandon Taylor
  12. Ripley Underground - Patricia Highsmith (Mystery)
My goal books for February are:
  1. A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet (Fiction/Book Club)
  2. Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo
  3. The Last Mrs. Parrish (Mystery)
  4. Hamnet (Fiction)
February is a short month, so we'll see what happens!


Friday, January 29, 2021

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

I don't like it when people refer to reading certain types of books as a "guilty pleasure."  I want people to feel good about reading whatever they find entertaining and realize that even if it isn't considered a "classic," that if you enjoy it, there's nothing to be embarrassed about.  That being said, while I am enjoying learning more about this Romance genre, I have to admit that there are some book I can't imagine flaunting in public!

My understanding is that Helen Hoang is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Her main character, Stella Lane, is a successful econometrician, but she can't quite seem to figure out the personal interactions appropriate to find a husband.  She also has an ASD diagnosis.  In an effort to better understand how to behave in a romantic relationship, Stella hires an escort to be her fake boyfriend.  But, of course, we know where this is headed!  I do really love these romances that normalize love in every way, shape, and form - making all people regardless of background capable of loving and being loved.  While I cringed at much of Stella's behavior, there were other parts I could definitely relate to - just like any other main character in these romances.  And, regardless of diagnosis, what I truly love about these stories, is they (for the most part) always have a happy ending.  Looking forward to reading more by Hoang soon.


The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

 

I'm always a little hesitant about reading short stories.  I'm not sure why since when done well, like any other kind of writing, they are entertaining and thought-provoking.  I have this idea that a short story is too short to ever leave me feeling satisfied about getting to know the characters.  While I know there is so much skill that goes into crafting a successful short story, it's just not a format that I'm that comfortable with.  So, it's no surprise that I borrowed this book not having any idea that it was a book of short stories (and one novella).  But, I stuck with it and was reminded that I do in fact enjoy a short story now and again!

Each of the stories in this collection is about a moment in time and relationships among characters affected by race, culture, and histories - known and unknown to them and the people they exist among.  The stories made me realize just how much you can capture and raise in this short format - I had initially thought I would read one story here and one story there in between other books/activities.  I read the first story and then set the book aside.  Then I read the second...and moved on right away to the third...and the fourth...and then just finished the book in the remainder of that sitting.  I do think spreading it out and allowing the individual stories to sink in would have been a valuable way to approach this book. But, my inability to do that is a reflection of how compelling I found it.  I'm still not sold on short stories, but I'm working on it.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

 

Sometimes you just have to give a book a few tries.  I borrowed this one last year - read two pages and my mind kept wandering.  I tried again this year and the same thing happened.  Then my mom told me that she'd read and enjoyed it.  So, I told myself I had to stick with it...and then by page three, I couldn't put it down!  I don't know what it was about those first two pages...

Set in the Kentucky mountains during the depression, this is a book about strong women making things happen even when many of those around them are physically holding them down.  Eager to escape her British home, Alice marries a handsome American and returns to his small hometown where she finds the honeymoon is quickly over.  Looking to escape yet another home situation, Alice signed up to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt's new traveling library.  The effort has its opponents in town - those who feel it is a frivolous waste of time, and that the only book anyone should be reading is the Bible.  But, Alice finds friends among the other women involved in the endeavor, and together the support each other through the difficulties of being women in this time.  There were a lot of moments of dread in this book, but mostly it was a quick read and a compelling story.  I found the bravery of these women incredible - and their willingness to just keep going despite having these truly hard lives with little recognition or reward.  Highly recommend reading this one curled up by the fire on a rainy winter evening.

Before the Ever After - Jacqueline Woodson

 


A juvenile fiction book written in verse is sure to be a fast read - the trick is slowing down to appreciate it and make sure that it's all sinking in.  Before the Ever After is about a young boy whose father is an NFL star and hero to everyone in their community.  Until he suffers one too many head injuries and is no longer able to play.  Suddenly the boy finds that his father is no longer himself, and even when he is himself, people don't seem to want to come around as much anymore.  There is a lot of sadness in this book - about seeing your parent at their most vulnerable, of being a child confused without all the facts, and just coping with change.  As usual, Woodson's words are beautiful - and this book, like her others, is worth a couple reads.  

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Ripley Underground - Patricia Highsmith (Ripley #2)

 

I wondered where Highsmith would take Tom Ripley in this second installment.  Would Ripley find himself on the run?  Would he have to commit yet another murder to cover his tracks?  At the outset, we find Ripley living in France, somehow married to a wealthy woman.  He doesn't work a regular job and spends his days gardening and brushing up on new languages.  And of course, he's found himself caught up in fraudulent art scheme - passing off new paintings as those of a long dead artist.  As the walls start closing in on Ripley, he's go to any lengths to protect himself, under the guise of protecting others.  His wife, having been away on some sort of holiday in Greece returns home - and while Ripley repeatedly describes her as lacking in morals and someone to whom he could probably confess all his crimes, it's unclear what her actual background is and what questionable decisions she has made (other than to marry Tom Ripley).  Ripley is a strange unlikeable man, and yet, I keep on reading wondering what senseless danger he will manage to get himself into next.  As a stand alone novel, I'm not sure I would have found this too intriguing but as a continuation of The Talented Mr. Ripley, this is worth picking up just to see where Tom has landed.  Looking forward to the third book in the trilogy.



Monday, January 11, 2021

Why Fish Don't Exist by Lulu Miller

Knowing only negative things about David Starr Jordan, I had zero (or even less than zero) interest in reading a book about a woman's hero-worship of him based on his classification of fish.  As a friend commented, "I can't imagine a book bringing together more topics I couldn't care less about."  When it was chosen for one of my book clubs, I considered just skipping the month - but eventually figured that might be a bad way to kick off the book club year, and the book seemed short.  So, I decided to take it for a ride - and what a roller coaster it was!  While I ran hot and cold on this book, I was definitely intrigued by the presentation.  The author presents herself as a bit of a lost soul, looking for meaning in a world of chaos - and intrigued by Jordan, a taxonomist who appears to exhibit incredible grit in the face of adversity.  But, it turns out that Jordan's views of a world in which everything has an appropriate place and classification - is also a world that finds itself ripe for destructive views in terms of eugenics.  And as the author uncovers his support of forced sterilization and other nauseating philosophies, she finds herself losing hope in what she believed would be her own answer to life.  An interesting way to present a biography intermixed with a memoir, I found this book worthwhile in that sense, and it was impressive how many different questions and ideas she fit into such a short book.  But, ultimately, I found the writing style challenged at times - and the lesson learned almost too forced.  Personally, I think I probably just couldn't get over the initial hero-worship of Jordan, but did find this book ripe for discussion and is certainly one I have thought about well after I finished it - which is always a mark of something positive.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

You Had Me at Hola - Alexis Daris

 

One genre I became more interested in reading in 2020 was romances.  I learned a lot about the breadth of romances out there - and allowed myself to just enjoy them as I would a television show - for pure entertainment.  What I also found exciting about this genre is that there are so many authors of color representing people of color falling in love with each other and having rich lives (both financially and metaphorically) being themselves.  It's a refreshing change of pace and really fun to see so many of these authors thriving and bringing their normal into the mainstream.

I received You Had Me at Hola for my birthday from a friend who reads almost exclusively in this genre, so I knew this would be good!  Jasmine Lin Rodriguez is a soap opera star whose recent break-up is all over the tabloids.  She swears off romance and intends only to focus on her goals as a Leading Lady, as she starts the filming on her new series - opposite the wildly popular telenovela star, Ashton Su├írez.  Ashton has his own reasons for wanting to stay out of the paparazzi limelight, and for keeping a few secrets from his co-stars.  But, of course, we know where this is headed!  The story is told, in part, through the script and plot of the show that Jasmine and Ashton are staring in - which I found fun and a nice break from the overall narrative.  It was fun to see the motivations and emotions of the characters on screen juxtaposed with the actors.  Definitely a fun story filled with both passion and humor.  Looking forward to reading others by this author.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

First Fiction Read of 2021: The Talented Mr. Ripley

Several years ago, I was really on a mystery kick - wanting to read all the old mysteries by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett.  At that time I learned that The Talented Mr. Ripley (I'd seen the movie) was written by a woman in the 1950s.  This intrigued me, so when I came across a collection of the Ripley trilogy in a local bookstore, I picked it up.  And, of course, it then say on my bookshelf for the next 10+ years.  But, I decided to pick it up over this winter vacation, and was immediately taken in by Tom Ripley - the slightly awkward and a bit annoying American who can't quite find his footing.  When the father of an old acquaintance, Dickie Greenleaf, tracks Tom down and offers to finance a trip to Italy so Tom can convince his Playboy trust-fund son to return to the States, Tom figures he might as well get an international trip out of it.  Once in Italy, it becomes clear that Dickie has no intention of returning home, and Tom finds himself infatuated not with Dickie, but with Dickie's lifestyle.  Unlike a typical whoddunit, there is no mystery here about who committed the crimes or where the bodies are buried- only in whether the murderer will get caught.  It is a fascinating examination of Tom Ripley's mind - and the guilt he sometimes carries with him (reminiscent of The Tell-Tale Heart).  And while he is not at all a likeable character, I did find myself anxious that he would be discovered - perhaps only because his life was so unbearably pathetic.  Clearly written and quite the page turner, I found myself pulled in to Ripley's world, and eager to read the next installment (Ripley Under Ground).

Friday, January 1, 2021

Kicking off 2021: January Picks


January 2021

Happy New Year!  I'm always hoping to be more organized about my reading.  At the same time, I do like the freedom of just picking up whatever moves me in the moment, or the latest one that a friend excitedly recommends.  That being said, I'd like to try to finish about a book a week this year.  I tend to read about 3-4 books at a time of different genres, as I like to have a variety to choose from each day depending on my mood.  My rough goal is read read a mystery each month, along with a non-fiction book, a book sitting on my shelves at home, and a fiction book.  Sometimes, of course, these categories may overlap. My picks for January are:

  • The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (mystery/on my bookshelf)
  • You Had Me at Hola  by Alexis Daria (romance/on my bookshelf/gift from friend)
  • Why Fish Don't Exist by Lulu Miller (non-fiction/for book club)
  • Real Life by Brendan Taylor (fiction/for work book club)
May 2021 bring lots of time for relaxing with a good book!