Dispatches from the Distancing – Days 189 & 190

First off, I hope I have the patience to finish this post. My laptop is being inexplicably laggy tonight and it is trying my last nerve. I know that part of the problem is that I have too many tabs open, but that is pretty much my reality, so there you go!

Anyhow, we’ve been having a quiet post-Christmas weekend. Pat and I did venture out to run a few errands yesterday. I had thought that it would be just a series of pick ups and drop offs where we didn’t actually have to go inside anywhere, but we did end up at Costco. Honestly, nearly all of our errand trips end up at Costco! At least our Costco is very careful and very clean and, surprisingly for the day after Christmas, not very busy. When Pat was working at his office, he always knew the quiet times to stop by and pick a few things up. Now that he–and so many others–now works from home, we never know if the place is going to be packed or dead! At this point, it is one of the few stores we actually go into (thanks to its careful observance of the COVID guidelines), so it is nice to have a little bit of normalty.

Today, we skipped church–we all slept in and the kids were sort of churched out for the week–and had a lazy day. I ended up sucked into a couple of television shows. My TV viewing has started to reflect my reading! The two shows I’m currently watching are The Undoing with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant and Wallander with Kenneth Branagh. I’m quite enjoying Wallander, but the Nordic Noir (even the British version) is a bit dark for Pat. The Undoing is interesting, but it is very much like on of the “girl” thrillers. I’m only about halfway through, but I’m expecting some big twist to come up. Pat and I did watch the first half of the Packers/Titans game, but then Chris asked to watch something else. I just checked and the Pack is up 26 points at the two minute warning, so I think we have a good shot to win this one!

This coming week should be relatively quiet week. If the weather weren’t so dreary, we might venture out for some safe outdoor activity, but as it is I think we’ll be staying close to home. And, honestly, I’m fine with that!

As it is Sunday, it’s time for my reading update. This was a very productive week in the books for me! As usual, I’m linking up with Kathryn at Book Date for It’s Monday…What Are You Reading?

Last week, I finished:

The Arctic Fury by Greer Macallister
(Goodreads review – 4.5 stars)
This is one of those books that hit more than one of my sweet spots. It’s a historical novel about strong women, a courtroom drama, and a nail biter adventure…all in one! If you want a book that will truly transport you and bring forth some very strong emotions, this is it.

While this is a novel, there are nuggets of true history here. The major nugget is Lady Jane Franklin’s search for her husband, who disappeared searching for the Northwest passage. This is what leads the fictional Virginia Reeve and twelve other women into the arctic.

I really appreciated how Macallister was able to balance all the different parts of this book. Most of the characters are fleshed out and fascinating and the action in the book rivals any Hollywood blockbuster (and, hey, Hollywood? Look into this one!). Information is doled out to the reader very carefully, but I never felt manipulated; instead I felt enticed.

The one thing that keeps this from being a 5 star read for me is that some things that happen in the courtroom just don’t seem believable to me. I know that courts were different over 150 years ago, but even some of the goings on are just hard to buy. While this isn’t a huge thing, it was enough to impact my enjoyment enough to knock part of a star off my rating.

Don’t let the courtroom shenanigans scare you away from this book. If you want a wild ride, this is it.

A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock #1) by Sherry Thomas
(No Goodreads review – 3.5 stars)
I have been reading a lot of mysteries lately and this one, which had been sitting on my Kindle for years, came highly recommended from a number of sources). The conceit is that Sherlock Holmes is the alter ego of Charlotte Holmes, a brilliant young woman, daughter of British nobility, who leaves her family to make her own way in the world. Because this is the first in a series, a lot of it was spent setting up the characters and the actual mystery played second fiddle. In this book, that didn’t bother me. However, I do hope that the mystery is more central in future books.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama
(Goodreads review – 4.5 stars)
Yes, the book we’ve all been waiting for! You would think with all this anticipation it would be ground-breaking, but it is exactly what you would expect. I don’t mean that as a knock–but, let’s face it, a Presidential Memoir is a pretty set-in-stone genre. If you aren’t into policy and someone trying to explain their mistakes and trumpeting their own successes, this isn’t a book for you. Because that is exactly what a Presidential Memoir is!

I doubt that this book will change anyone’s mind. If you were an Obama supporter before reading or listening to this, you’ll still be one afterwards. And I doubt that this will change the heart of anyone who didn’t support him. Honestly, that is okay. I think if this were a book that set out to change anyone’s mind, it would fail.

I mostly listened to this book and referred to a print copy, generously sent to me by my big brother, when needed. I would recommend that, if you choose to listen to this, speed it up just a bit because Obama is, among many other things, a very slow talker.

The other thing I would recommend is to read or listen to Becoming by Michelle Obama before tackling this one. While both Barack and Michelle are, I believe, honest in their memoirs, the First Lady is more vulnerable and gives a more candid view of their lives in the White House. It is also interesting to compare what the two say about the same thing. For example, Michelle Obama devotes a chapter in her book recounting their trials to become parents, a journey that included miscarriages and IVF. Barack Obama covers the same journey with one sentence (a paraphrase that I believe to be fairly accurate), “One afternoon, Michelle called and told me I was going to be a Daddy.”

There are more personal glimpses in this book, mostly President’s Obama’s concern about what life in the White House was costing his family, but most of it is a recounting of what went down. Also, he is pretty blunt about what he thinks of people, which was at times quite entertaining. Angela Merkel seems, in his estimation, to be able to teach Jesus a few things…and I’m sure he has been waiting quite a while to say what he said about the likes of Lindsey Graham and Vladimir Putin.

There were a couple of surprises…such as how close we came to this (*waves hand at the quarantine world*) when Swine Flu hit–except that time as a precaution and not as a mad gasp to try to stop a downward spiral. Of all that he covered in this book, which goes until early May 2011, I found his accounting leading up to the killing of Osama Bin Laden to be the most fascinating.

I’m not a Presidential historian, but I’ve read a few memoirs and this one is the best yet. The only reason why I am not giving it a full 5 stars is because, while it is the best Presidential memoir, it is only the second best Obama memoir (Becoming takes that cake!). This is more than worth the time to read and one I’d highly recommend…after you’ve read Becoming.

For the Love of Mike (Molly Murphy #3) by Rhys Bowen
(No Goodreads review – 3.5 stars)
This is another mystery series that I’ve been enjoying. As it only took me about 3 nights to read, I started and finished it this week! Molly Murphy is a plucky, interesting character and Bowen brings the world of New York City in the 1900’s to life. This particular book was a lot of fun and there was quite a bit going on in it–however, I felt like things became a bit too out control at the end. I’m hoping that won’t become a habit in future books, because I would love to read the whole series…but there are only so many endings like that I can take.

Last week, I started:

Iron Lake (Cork O’Connor #1) by William Kent Kruger
This is not my first William Kent Kruger book, but it is the first of the Cork O’Connor books that I’ve read. It is also the book that Pat plucked off my TBR bookcase to give to me for Jolabokaflod. I am quite enjoying it–so good on him! I’m over halfway through and I have my suspicions on how it might end, I definitely can’t predict it. It also seems as close to Nordic Noir as an American novel can get. I guess that makes sense–if you are looking for American Nordic Noir, you are going to find it in a book set in the northernmost part of Minnesota! I actually think Pat might enjoy this book, so I’m going to try to talk him into reading it once I’m done.

The Secret, Book, & Scone Society by Ellery Adams
Even though I have been reading a lot of mysteries lately, modern cozies aren’t really my cup of tea. However, I heard about this on a podcast (yes, Shauna, I started listening to Currently Reading!) and the hosts gushed about this series so much that I had to give it a try. I’m exactly one chapter in so I have very few thoughts so far. I can say that the language, at least the first chapter, is beautiful and there seems to be some element of magical realism. I’m not going to commit to reading on in the series until I finish with this, but so far I think I’ll end up enjoying this one.

Still reading:

Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal #1) by Zen Cho (audiobook)
Among Other Things, I’ve Taken Up Smoking by Aoibheann Sweeney
Middlemarch by George Eliot

And, now, I’m going to insert some images, link up this post, and power down my computer. Maybe when I reboot it tomorrow it won’t be quite so laggy!



12 thoughts on “Dispatches from the Distancing – Days 189 & 190

  1. I’m a fan of Obama, but after listening to half his memoir I have taken a break. It is just too much of a political deep dive for me. I think it should have been a lot more tightly edited. We don’t need to know everything! I hope you have a great new year.

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    1. I made a point of only listening to 1 or 2 chapters of A Promised Land a day, which really helped. I think it would totally overwhelm me if I just tried to listen to it straight through! I also had a second audiobook going that I could switch to after I had my daily Obama dose.

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  2. You have some really good books featured – The Arctic Fury is one I will definitely be looking into reading. We also had a much quieter Christmas than usual, but better to be safe than sorry in the current climate. Hope 2021 is a happier and safer one for you!

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  3. I enjoyed The Undoing, and after I realized that it was based on a book I had hiding out on my Kindle, I promptly read the book.

    I loved Becoming…and hope to enjoy A Promised Land, but expect to read it between other reads, in bits and pieces, just like I do with other lengthy and serious books.

    Enjoy your week and your books, and good luck on the laptop. After you mentioned all your open tabs, I quickly closed a few of mine. LOL

    Here are my WEEKLY UPDATES

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    1. I definitely had to balance A Promised Land with another book. I only listened to 1-2 chapters a day and then had a second audiobook going that I could switch to. It’s definitely worth it, but it is also a huge time commitment!

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  4. I have A Promised Land and have been thinking about starting it. I had thought about getting Becoming too. Now I will and listen to it before I tackle A Promised Land. I do like the Lady Sherlock books. I hope you go on with the series. I read Iron Lake in 2017 – as a native Minnesotan I felt obliged. Somehow I never carried on with the series though. Come see my week here. Happy reading and happy new year!

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  5. I had to wait quite a while to finally get a copy of the Michelle Obama memoir from my library, and I expect to have to wait a long time for Barack Obama’s book, too. I’m so glad to read your thorough review.

    My husband and I are very close to the dangerous age demographic for this virus so we don’t go into stores at all. It doesn’t help that many people around us here still (really, people? still?) don’t take the virus seriously.

    Happy New Year!

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  6. Glad you’ve had a quiet week. We all need them. I thought I would have a few days off, but this real estate market is busy.

    I want to read The Arctic Fury and A Study in Scarlet Women. Hope you enjoy all your books.

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Wishing you a happy and healthy 2021.

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  7. The Macallister book sounds good, I’ve been seeing that one around a bit and it piqued my interest. Glad you’ve had a nice quiet weekend- those are always nice. I’ve watched a few Nordic Noir type shows and I usually like them, but yes they can get a bit dark, for sure.

    Have a great New Year!!!

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About Melinda