Dispatches from the Distancing – Days 99 & 100

First off, Happy Fathers Day to all the fathers out there (including my dear husband and all of my brothers and, of course, my own dad). Our day was a quiet one, as are most days right now. Pat actually did all the cooking, which he tends to enjoy–we had brunch after church and then he grilled a tri-tip for dinner. Other than that, nothing much to report from our house. I did call my own dad to wish him a Happy Father’s day, but we only spoke briefly as he wanted to get back to the movie he had already seen dozens of times.

Pat did spend the afternoon making dozens of bottles of plum wine. He started the process last fall and has been aging it in the garage. I’ll admit that I’m a little scared to try it. He also made hard cider and it was the worst thing I’ve ever tasted (Pat assures me he has tasted many things far worse than that.) But since we now have loads of the plum wine waiting for us, I’m sure I’ll try it at some point.

Before I get into my reading for the week, someone asked my why I’m no longer doing book reviews on my blog. Basically, it came down to it taking over my life. I had so many reviews to do that I no longer had the chance to read what I wanted. I do still review books (in a shorter form) on Instagram, which also posts to this blog’s Facebook page. And, of course, you can find me on Goodreads.

As usual, I am linking up with Kathryn at Book Date for her It’s Monday…What Are You Reading blog hop.

What I finished last week:

Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman
3.0 Stars

I decided to read this book after seeing the Netflix Miniseries (and documentary about the making of the series) of the same name. From what I understood, half of the series was based on this book and half is fictional, to protect Feldman’s privacy. After finishing the book, I think a more accurate statement would be that the Netflix series is inspired, not based upon, this book.

That is not to say that Feldman’s story is not interesting. I was sucked into it and found all the details about the Satmar Hasidic group to be fascinating. I’ll admit that I know so little about that world that much of it was completely new to me. Feldman goes into the intricacies of the faith and does an admirable job of explaining them to the outside world.

I know that there has been some criticism about the accuracy of this book. However, after reading those critiques and this book, I’m not overly concerned about it. So much of it seemed just to be a case of her opinion of thing differing from others. I was more frustrated with the fact that things in this book tend to be dangled out there and never really resolved, mostly regarding her husband and some of his proclivities. I would have rather these things be left out completely if they weren’t ever going to be directly addressed,.

But what really irritated me about this book is the heights of self-aggrandizement that Feldman reaches. She doesn’t hide that she is convinced that she is the smartest, most beautiful, most revolutionary person in this community and no one could ever achieve what she has achieved. This became so irritating to me that it made it hard to enjoy the other parts of the book.

So, my overall opinion of this book is that it is worth the read, but only if you can separate the author from the narrative. Or, you could just watch the Netflix series.

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
4 stars

I didn’t review this one on Goodreads–I normally don’t review audiobooks as it takes me so long to get through them. This one was a delight, even though it was a Jane Austen-related book. Those of you who know me know that I am not a Jane Austen person! However, what I really loved about this book was the representation of English village life. I chalk this up more to my new found affinity for Doc Martin than to any Jane Austen book.

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld
4.5 stars

Alternate historical novels are a genre I really want to love, but I’ve learned that they need to be done just right to work. Too often the books are based on some major historical event going “the other way,” but this rarely works. The key, as Curtis Sittenfeld shows us in this book, is to have a small, personal event change–like what if a young lawyer decides not to marry her ambitious, philandering boyfriend?

While I admit that there is definitely a cathartic element to this book, that is really just a bonus. At the heart is a story of woman trying to make her own way in the world of politics. Hillary Rodham’s motivations and challenges are explored and set in a world so much like our own…except…

The action in this story jumps around in time quite a bit, although it doesn’t seem jumbled, thanks to Sittenfeld’s clear writing style. She also captures Hillary Rodham Clinton’s character so perfectly that the reader truly feels that this Hillary Rodham exists.

This was not a perfect book for me, and I did have to knock off half a star for two things. The first is a case of “it’s not you, it’s me.” Let’s just say that young Hillary Rodham and Bill Clinton are quite frisky and, while not overly graphic, I was a bit uncomfortable reading it. It’s not that I am sensitive to sexually explicit scenes, it’s that involved two real people who have been in the public eye for almost 25 years. It was almost like reading about your parents having sex. The second part is that there is an element of the absurd in the latter half of the book that, while entertaining, seemed a bit over the top for me.

But, honestly, these are minor quibbles and ones that I look forward to discussing with my girlfriends, who I have already instructed to read this book. There are plenty of books about Hillary Rodham Clinton, but I think the one I needed was the one about the Hillary Rodham that could have been.

What I started last week:

Beach Read by Emily Henry

This is my next audio book–my second from libro.fm. I’m trying to stay caught up with my libro audio books and then go back and catch up with my audible books after that (trust me, the audible library is huge!) This one is a light read, which is a style that has been working or me in this format. It will probably take me a few weeks to get through as I’m mostly listening right before I fall asleep.

Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho

I’ve gotten back to getting digital loans from the library so I’m never sure when things will come in. This (and one other title) came in just as I was finishing Rodham and I thought it would be a good palate cleanser. It is marketed as being a cross between Bridget Jones’s Diary and Crazy Rich Asians. After reading just a bit, I am afraid it is too much like those books, but I’m willing to see where this one goes.

14 thoughts on “Dispatches from the Distancing – Days 99 & 100

  1. Looks like lots of reviews to me! Your description of Pat’s wine making made me smile. So good to hear you loved The Jane Austen Society book as thats on my TBR to listen to. I am not a Jane fan either.


    1. I think I should be clearer about the reviews! I’m not reading so that I can review books, but instead just doing quick reviews of what I decide to read. I was getting so many review requests and arcs and such that it took all the joy out of reading and blogging!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am really looking forward to reading my copy of Rodham, and I had to smile at the comparison between reading about famous people having sex…and reading about our parents.

    I am also curious about The Jane Austen Society, although I haven’t read most of the Jane Austen books. I did read The Jane Austen Book Club, which was fun. So was the movie.

    Enjoy your week, and your Father’s Day sounded great. Here are my WEEKLY UPDATES


    1. The good thing about the Jane Austen Society is that the plot is not taken from and doesn’t build off a Jane Austen book, so you can read it without being super familiar with her books.


  3. I’ve been very curious about Rodham, and I am glad to read your thoughts about this book.

    And, btw, my grandfather used to make homemade wine from the grapes that grew on his property, and everyone said the wine was horrible, too. I’m sure your husband’s wine will get better with age. Right?


  4. I loved Rodham…if only! So I’m curious about the not posting reviews. It seems like what you’ve included here would count as reviews. Are these what you posted on Instagram? If I had more books in print, I’d be tempted to make the move to just Instagram, but I just don’t get that may from publishers (ones that I’m actually interested in anyway!).


    1. Yes, these are reviews. What I meant, and didn’t explain we’ll, is that I’m not longer doing solicited reviews or accepting ARCs for reviews. While the free books were nice, the responsibility that came with them (at least what I saw as responsibility) was just too much for me.


  5. I know what you mean about not enjoying reading when they are review books. They sound good when I choose them and are often disappointing when I actually get around to reading them. Come see my week here. Happy reading!


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About Melinda